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Sean Monahan makes preseason debut

Flames center recovered from back strain, to play against Canucks on Thursday

by Aaron Vickers / Correspondent

CALGARY -- Calgary Flames center Sean Monahan made his preseason debut against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena on Thursday.

Monahan strained his back in offseason training.

"It's exciting," Monahan said Thursday before Calgary traveled to Vancouver. "I wanted to play earlier, but it's an injury you don't want to rush or anything like that. I feel confident and strong and I'm ready to go. Obviously you want to get out there and get back in the motion, and as a centerman there's a lot of details in the game that go into it … just the timing and being in the right spots at the right time."

The injury, announced Sept. 2, prevented Monahan from representing Team North America at the World Cup of Hockey 2016 and caused him to miss the start of Flames training camp.

He was second on the Flames with 27 goals, five game-winning goals, seven power-play goals and an NHL career-high 63 points in 81 games last season. Monahan was a restricted free agent before signing a seven-year contract reportedly worth $44.625 million (average annual value $6.375 million) with Calgary on Aug. 19.

"I'm 21 … all you want to do is play," he said. "It's frustrating not being able to play, but at the same time it's something I didn't want to be nagging with all year. We did the right thing, and right now I feel great."

Video: Pre-Game: Sean Monahan

Monahan resumed skating with teammates Sunday and began taking contact Tuesday.

Flames coach Glen Gulutzan monitored Monahan against the Canucks in the final game prior to the regular season opener at the Edmonton Oilers on Oct. 12.

"I wasn't comfortable … he's had three skates, really … I wasn't comfortable just after two that he could go in and play a game," said Gulutzan, hired by the Flames on June 17 to replace Bob Hartley. "We just want to make sure he gets into some game battles. He's had the practice battles for two straight days. His conditioning is good. His health is good."

Monahan was selected by the Flames with the No. 6 pick of the 2013 NHL Draft and has 159 points (80 goals, 79 assists) in 237 NHL games. He has missed nine games in three season and has played 81 games in each of the past two seasons.

"Hockey … a lot of it is mental," Monahan said. "The way you think the game is usually how you perform. After tonight we're coming up to the first game of the regular season. That first game is a really big game. All those games playing against the teams in our conference are huge. This is a time where we've got to get together as a team and find a way to grow and continue to get better."

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