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Flames coach benched Gaudreau to protect him

by Curtis Zupke / NHL.com

ANAHEIM -- Calgary Flames left wing Johnny Gaudreau was polite about being benched in the third period of a 6-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks in Game 1 of the Western Conference Second Round on Thursday, but his coach spoke for him.

Bob Hartley said after the game that he rested Gaudreau because he thought Anaheim was "taking liberties" with the rookie forward.

Hartley said Friday that Gaudreau didn’t like being a spectator.

"I believe he wasn’t OK with this when I told him early in the third period that he wasn’t playing anymore and I told him why he wasn’t playing," Hartley said. "Johnny wants to be on the ice. As much as he’s not a big-size player, but my job as head coach of the Calgary Flames is to do what’s best for the organization in those times, and what was best last night was to keep him on the bench.

"There was no sense exposing him out there. He’s a big-time player for us and we’ve talked about it with my partners between the second and third period that we all agreed that it was best for him. I was not surprised by his reaction. He was not happy."

At 5-foot-9, 150 pounds, Gaudreau seems vulnerable to a much bigger Anaheim team that plays a heavy game. Ducks center Nate Thompson was penalized for cross-checking Gaudreau in the second period in a snapshot of how vulnerable Gaudreau could be.

But he’s not deterred for Game 2 of the best-of-7 series Sunday at Honda Center (10 p.m. ET; CNBC, TVA Sports, SN).

"Watching the guys out there skate in a 5-0 game, in a physical game like that, I want to be out there with them," Gaudreau said. "But you’ve got to listen to the coach. He knows what’s best. He wanted me to rest."

Gaudreau, a Calder Trophy finalist, skates on the Flames’ top line that plays against Ducks centers Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler. It’s a big challenge that Calgary will have to tackle.

"Obviously I need to play better," Gaudreau said. "It was a 5-0 game at that point so I mean, [that’s what] coach is thinking at that time. But I think I’m going to come out fine in the second game and make sure I’m one of the better players."

Hartley did not have an update on left wing Micheal Ferland and right wing Jiri Hudler, who each left Game 1 with an undisclosed injury, although Hartley said Ferland does not have a head injury. Calgary had an optional skate Friday and more might be revealed Saturday when the Flames have a full practice.

Hartley is aware that size is perceived as an issue for the Flames in this series, but said, "We learn to control what’s on the inside."

"As much as we can stretch Johnny Gaudreau until Sunday night, he’s not going to be [6-foot-1] by Sunday," Hartley said. "He is who is he is and all our players are who they are. We learn to battle as a team."

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