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First Round

Neal will be healthy scratch for Flames in Game 5 against Avalanche

Forward has no points, is minus-3; Calgary needs win to extend series

by Aaron Vickers / Correspondent

CALGARY -- James Neal will be a healthy scratch for the Calgary Flames when they try to avoid elimination in Game 5 of the Western Conference First Round against the Colorado Avalanche at Scotiabank Saddledome on Friday (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVAS, SN, ALT).

The Avalanche lead the best-of-7 series 3-1.

Austin Czarnik will replace Neal, a forward who has no points and a minus-3 rating in four games in the series. Czarnik is expected to play right wing on a line with center Mark Jankowski and left wing Michael Frolik.


[RELATED: Complete Flames vs. Avalanche series coverage]


"Anytime you bring a guy in, somebody has to come out, right?" Flames coach Bill Peters said after the morning skate. "There were some guys that we talked about, but there's guys who do different things on specialty teams that we didn't have anybody to replace too. One guy comes in, one guy goes out."

Neal signed a five-year, $28.75 million contract (average annual value $5.75 million) with Calgary on July 2, 2018.

He leads the Flames with 104 games of experience in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, including back-to-back appearances in the Cup Final. Neal played with the Nashville Predators in the 2017 Final, won by the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games, and with the Vegas Golden Knights in the 2018 Final, won by the Washington Capitals in five games. He had 11 points (six goals, five assists) in 20 playoff games for Vegas and has 55 postseason points (31 goals, 24 assists) in the NHL.

"You never want to see one of your teammates go through anything like that and not be able to get in," Calgary defenseman and captain Mark Giordano said. "We'll see what happens. We're trying different things because we've lost three in a row here. It's do or die right now for us. We're trying to get some energy going, trying to get back to our game."

Neal had 19 points (seven goals, 12 points) in 63 games with Calgary this season, his lowest point total and the first time he's failed to score at least 21 goals in a season during his 11-season NHL career.

"It's hard," Peters said. "Every decision you make is impactful one way or the other. Tough decisions. We've spent a long time on it the last two days. We think it's the right move to make at this time and we've got to play our best game here tonight.

"We put our best foot forward, in our opinion."

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