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Lindholm thriving for Flames in rivalry with Oilers

Forward has been key factor in Calgary's two wins

by Tim Campbell @TimNHL / Staff Writer

CALGARY -- Elias Lindholm will not be in the main storyline when the Battle of Alberta between the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers resumes at Rogers Place on Wednesday (10 p.m. ET; TVAS, SN360, SNE, SNO, SNW), but it would be a mistake to overlook the Calgary Flames forward.

Though the attention in the latest chapter of the heated rivalry will undoubtedly be on Oilers forwards Connor McDavid (76 points) and Leon Draisaitl (75 points), Nos. 1-2 in the NHL scoring race, and the usual intensity that comes when the provincial rivals face off, Lindholm could play a big role.

The forward has been a key factor in Calgary's wins in the first two games against the Oilers, scoring twice, including the game-winning goal, in a 4-3 home win on Jan. 11, and having a goal and an assist in Calgary's 5-1 win at Edmonton on Dec. 27.

"Obviously it's more fun to play those types of games," Lindholm said Tuesday. "They've been so good this year so you obviously want to do whatever it takes to win those games. I've been able to put the puck in the net. It's kind of fun."

It's been going in frequently since Lindholm was traded to the Flames, along with defenseman Noah Hanifin, from the Carolina Hurricanes for forward Micheal Ferland, defenseman Dougie Hamilton and defenseman prospect Adam Fox on June 23, 2018.

Video: EDM@CGY: Lindholm buries PPG for second goal

Since the trade, Lindholm, selected No. 5 by Carolina in the 2013 NHL Draft, has 115 points (47 goals, 68 assists) in 132 games, including NHL career highs in goals (27), assists (51) and points (78) in 81 games last season. In his five seasons in Carolina, he had 188 points (64 goals, 124 assists) in 374 games.

"He's always been a good player," Flames forward Mikael Backlund said. "That's why he was drafted so high. Sometimes you just need a little change in scenery to take that next step. I'm sure management was hoping for him to break out here and they knew he was a smart, skilled player.

"We don't play Carolina often so before [the trade] I didn't know him, but I just knew he was a really good player. I didn't know he was going to be this good."

Lindholm can't quite put his finger on why he's thriving in Calgary but knows it's got something to do with feeling at home.

"Playing in Carolina, that was total opposite from what home is like and what I'm used to," Lindholm, who is from Gavle, Sweden, said. "Coming here, you have the winter and the snow, it's obviously far away from home but it feels more like home.

"I feel comfortable here and feel more like myself up here. I'm obviously playing with good players and the team is doing pretty well, which helps. Just a little change in my life to come here has helped. It has just clicked right away."

In addition to his 37 points (20 goals, 17 assists) in 51 games this season, he leads the Flames with seven power-play goals and six game-winning goals. Only David Perron of the St. Louis Blues (eight) and Draisaitl (seven) have more game-winning goals in the NHL this season.

Lindholm's shooting percentage is 16.4, better than his previous NHL high of 14.8 percent last season.

Video: EDM@CGY: Lindholm scores on bouncing puck

Veteran forward Derek Ryan played with Lindholm in Carolina for three seasons (2015-18) and then signed as a free agent with the Flames on July 1, 2018, not long after Lindholm was traded to Calgary.

Ryan said he does not like talk of ceilings or maximums and said Lindholm is a good example why.

"He's young and he's still on his way up," Ryan said. "He fit really well with [Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan last season] and he's fit really well in our lineup. He was on that path anyway but now that he's in a lineup where he's even more valuable, he's just taken off from there."

Ryan said Lindholm's low-key, low-stress attitude cannot be discounted as a factor in his fresh start in Calgary.

"He's in a higher spot here, a more valued, coveted player and his personality makes it easy to get along with him and hang around with him," Ryan said. "But I think his success is about his hard work and his skill."

With the Flames in second place in the Pacific Division, one point ahead of the Oilers, the stakes for the game Wednesday are already high. Add to that an incident in the previous game in which Zack Kassian received a double-minor and was subsequently suspended two games for roughing Matthew Tkachuk, who was criticized for not fighting back, and the intensity will be even higher. The teams also play Saturday in Calgary.

"It's going to be huge," Lindholm said. "We obviously want to ... come in with a good effort tomorrow against Edmonton again. We've had some success previously but it's a new game. It's going to be fun to be a part of to see what's going to happen. We obviously try to focus on our game and try to win the game. That's all that matters."

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