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Lindholm, Hanifin fitting in well with Flames

Forward, defenseman acquired from Hurricanes help lead Calgary to first place in Western Conference

by Tim Campbell @TimNHL / Staff Writer

CALGARY -- Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin have been perfect fits for the Calgary Flames this season. The team that traded them away in the offseason got a first-hand look Tuesday.

Lindholm had two points (one goal, one assist) and Hanifin continued his steady play on defense in the Flames' 3-2 win against the Carolina Hurricanes at Scotiabank Saddledome. 

They were traded to Calgary from Carolina for defenseman Dougie Hamilton, forward Micheal Ferland and defenseman prospect Adam Fox on June 23, 2018.

Lindholm, who played his first five NHL seasons for Carolina, has 58 points (21 goals, 37 assists) in 51 games skating on the top line with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. His previous NHL career highs were 17 goals in 2014-15 and 45 points in 2016-17.

"Hard to tell how much (I've grown) but I think I'm going in the right direction," said the 24-year-old, who extended his point streak to eight games (one goal, nine assists) in the victory. "I think for a few years I played pretty good but not as good as I've been playing over here. I think I've taken a couple of steps.

"Coming here and playing with good players, it's been a fun ride so far."

Video: Lindholm is helping spark the Flames offense

Lindholm is one of five Flames who have at least 50 points this season, joining Gaudreau (73), Monahan (61), forward Matthew Tkachuk (57) and defenseman Mark Giordano (52).

"I always knew I could produce," said Lindholm, selected by Carolina with the No. 5 pick in the 2013 NHL Draft. "I was a productive player when I was younger and it's still there. It's not like you forget how to produce."

Hurricanes captain Justin Williams said he's been impressed, and a bit surprised, with how well his former teammate has fit with Calgary.

"It seems like he has just slid right in and found a nice hole there and he's been doing great," Williams said. "But am I shocked that he's top 15 in (NHL) scoring? Probably, yes. He never had scored 20 goals (in a season) before this year. But I'm very proud of him and certainly wish him the best but just not at our expense."

Hanifin, selected by the Hurricanes with the No. 5 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, is averaging 21:01 per game on the Flames' second defense pair with veteran Travis Hamonic. He has 25 points (four goals, 21 assists) in 51 games and isn't far off from his NHL career high of 32 points (10 goals, 22 points) in 79 games last season.

The 21-year-old said he loves how his game is trending with the Flames (33-13-5), who head into the 2019 Honda NHL All-Star Weekend first in the Western Conference. 

"I think I've grown a lot, especially still being relatively young and having guys like (Mark Giordano, TJ Brodie and Hamonic), some older, veteran guys I've been playing with and kind of looking up to," Hanifin said. "I've learned a lot from them."

Video: BUF@CGY: Hanifin rips home equalizer from the point

Giordano, the Flames captain, said he's been impressed not only with Hanifin's game but with the minutes he's playing at such a young age. 

"It's helped our group (a lot). He has (almost) 300 games already at his age (290)," Giordano said. "Me and (Brodie) have played together a long time and have that chemistry, and I feel like (Hamonic and Hanifin) have been great right from Day One this season as well."

Hamilton scored his seventh goal of the season for Carolina in the loss and has 17 points in 49 games, averaging 19:34 of ice time. Ferland, who has 25 points (13 goals, 12 assists) in 41 games, left the game Tuesday in the second period with an undisclosed injury. 

The game was also the first for Calgary coach Bill Peters and center Derek Ryan against their former team.

Peters was hired by the Flames on April 23, 2018, four days after resigning as Hurricanes coach after four seasons. Ryan signed with the Flames as an unrestricted free agent July 1, 2018, after spending three seasons in Carolina.

The teams will play again at PNC Arena on Feb. 3.

"Anytime you're playing on a team, you envision getting goals and winning there and doing well, and obviously that didn't quite happen in Carolina," Hanifin said. "But everything happens for a reason. I'm here now with a great group of guys and we're doing super well here."

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