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Flames counting on top line to spark offense

by Aaron Vickers /

CALGARY -- The Calgary Flames hope home ice can help them take a 2-1 series lead against the Vancouver Canucks in Game 3 of their best-of-7 Western Conference First Round series.

But they'll need more from their top line to take advantage.

Over their final 31 regular-season games, Calgary's trio of Jiri Hudler, Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan combined for 92 points. They have two assists -- each coming on a late power play with Game 2 out of reach -- eight shots on goal against Vancouver goaltender Eddie Lack and a combined minus-10-rating through the first two games.

"We're not too worried about our lack of success right now," said Monahan, who had 31 goals and 62 points in 81 regular-season games. "The crowd is going to be going tonight and I think we are going to feed off of that, and that's going to help us get going.

"It felt like it was coming and we know what we need to do to be better. We talked about it and we're going to have fun by doing that."

Game 3 is Sunday at Scotiabank Saddledome (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

The Flames have led for 29.6 seconds in the series but earned the split in Vancouver.

Heading into Game 3, the Canucks' top trio of Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin and Alexandre Burrows has combined for 268 games of Stanley Cup Playoff experience.

Calgary's has 72 games, 68 from Hudler, who with Brandon Bollig are the only two Flames to have won the Stanley Cup.

But Flames coach Bob Hartley isn't going to let inexperience slide as an excuse.

"Sean Monahan was six years old when the Sedins got in the League," Hartley said. "While Monahan was learning to ride his bike, the Sedins were starting to play in the NHL, but that's who we have. Two years ago, we decided on a rebuild and we went the right way. We're not yet at the top of the mountains, but we have some great young players, we're committed to play them, and they will play."

And play them head-to-head against Vancouver's best.

With home ice and the last change, Hartley contests he'll continue to match Canucks coach Willie Desjardins and his top trio shift for shift, meaning his top-line players can expect more work against the Sedins.

"Willie and I, we both agree on matchups," Hartley said. "There were very few changes on the fly in Vancouver. Sometimes I don't like who he's putting on Monahan, or who he's putting on [Matt] Stajan or [Mikael] Backlund, but we seem agree on this.

"After this, we can dissect all that we want about coaches, cities, organizations, but the game is played on the ice. It's going to be packed in here to see 40 of the world's best hockey players. Let's drop the puck and let them decide the outcome."

Monahan, 20 years old and two playoff games into his career, understands that challenge.

"Obviously we want to be better than them and that's our goal and we can do that," he said. "We've talked about it as a group and as a team. So we know we've got to be better than that line. Me, Johnny, and [Hudler] need to start producing more and we're going to do that."

Here are the projected lineups:


Johnny Gaudreau - Sean Monahan - Jiri Hudler

Sam Bennett - Mikael Backlund - Joe Colborne

Michael Ferland - Matt Stajan - David Jones

Brandon Bollig - Markus Granlund - Josh Jooris

Kris Russell - Dennis Wideman

TJ Brodie - Deryk Engelland

David Schlemko - Corey Potter

Jonas Hiller

Karri Ramo

Scratched: Mason Raymond, Tyler Wotherspoon, Drew Shore

Injured: Ladislav Smid (upper body), Paul Byron (lower body), Mark Giordano (torn biceps tendon), Raphael Diaz (lower body), (lower body), Lance Bouma (upper body)


Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Alexandre Burrows

Chris Higgins - Nick Bonino - Radim Vrbata

Ronalds Kenins - Bo Horvat - Jannik Hansen

Shawn Matthias - Brad Richardson - Derek Dorsett

Alexander Edler - Christopher Tanev

Dan Hamhuis - Yannick Weber

Luca Sbisa - Kevin Bieksa

Eddie Lack

Ryan Miller

Scratched: Linden Vey, Brandon McMillan, Ryan Stanton

Injured: Zack Kassian (back)

Status report: After leaving Game 2 midway through the second period, but returning to take three shifts totaling 1:59, Bennett is expected to play in Game 3… Hiller is expected to start his third straight game of the series. Karri Ramo relieved Hiller late in the third period of Game 2.

Who's hot: Russell has scored in both games to open the series, including the Game 1 winner with 29.6 seconds remaining in regulation. He is the only defenseman with more than one goal in the playoffs.

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