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Gaudreau reaching new heights with Flames en route to fifth All-Star Game

Forward four goals from tying NHL career high of 30

by Tracey Myers @TraMyers_NHL / Staff Writer

CHICAGO -- Johnny Gaudreau had plenty of open space and a chance at redemption in front of him after he took a pass from defenseman Mark Giordano.

The Calgary Flames forward said he had missed six or seven breakaways in his previous two or three games and didn't want to let another quality scoring chance go by. He didn't. His shot snuck through Chicago Blackhawks goalie Collin Delia 54 seconds into the third period of Calgary's 4-3 win at United Center on Monday.

"Guys gave me a hard time on the bench there, saying, 'about time,'" Gaudreau said.


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But Gaudreau has connected more than he's missed. The 25-year-old, who scored two goals against the Blackhawks and had two assists in the Flames' 5-3 win against the Colorado Avalanche at Scotiabank Saddledome on Wednesday, has 66 points (26 goals, 40 assists) in 45 games. He's four goals from tying his NHL career high of 30 set in 2015-16 and 18 points shy of his NHL career high of 84 set last season.

It's no surprise Gaudreau was selected to the 2019 Honda NHL All-Star Game at SAP Center in San Jose on Jan. 26. It will be his fifth All-Star Game.

"Obviously he deserves it," Flames forward Michael Frolik said. "He's an unbelievable player. He's so fast, and in those small spaces, those tight turns, he can handle the puck with speed. It's fun to watch him and he's been great this year."

Gaudreau has been especially great lately. He has 15 points (seven goals, eight assists) during a six-game point streak. He was named the NHL's First Star for the week ending Jan. 6 on Monday after scoring 11 points (five goals, six assists) in four games to help the Flames (28-13-4, 60 points) remain in first place in the Pacific Division. He's scored three overtime goals this season, tied for second in the NHL with Mark Scheifele of the Winnipeg Jets and Jeff Skinner of the Buffalo Sabres, one behind leader Dylan Larkin of the Detroit Red Wings.

Giordano said he's still surprised at some of the things Gaudreau can do.

"He can get you the puck in situations where you don't think he can," Giordano said. "But I think what people don't see is just how competitive he is. The guys who are the best players in the League are [competitive] because they want the puck in key situations, and that's how he is.

"Just look at his overtime play and stuff like that. I'm happy for the way his career is going but this year he's taken that next step, for sure."

That next step is a big reason why the Flames, who play the Florida Panthers in Calgary on Friday (9 p.m. ET; SNW, FS-F, NHL.TV), are second in the NHL with 162 goals scored, 15 behind the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Video: Looking at Johnny Gaudreau's impressive play

Defenseman Travis Hamonic, who was traded to Calgary by the New York Islanders on June 24, 2017, said Gaudreau, because of his size and speed, is hard to defend.

"He's one of those guys who's really not afraid to go to the hard areas," said Hamonic, who played for Islanders from 2010-17. "With that being said, a lot of times the hard areas are really physical spots on the ice, right? But you can't really hit him because of his size and ability to spin off you.

"He's waiting for you to kind of take a run at him and he's going to go the other way. As a lot of defensemen are in the League, you try to be hard on players. And it seems like the harder you are on him, the better he gets."

Gaudreau, who has 354 points (123 goals, 231 assists) in 357 NHL games, is often compared to another NHL all-star, Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane. Flames coach Bill Peters said both are "American guys, dynamic, play-making wingers who make other guys better."

Kane, who will make his eighth All-Star Game appearance, has long been a fan of Gaudreau.

"You saw last game against us, the way he works on his edges and is able to control the puck with his head up," Kane said. "He can beat you so many ways, with his speed or pulling up and slowing the game down.

"That team's been good and that top line's been one of the main reasons, with Johnny, [Sean] Monahan and [Elias] Lindholm. Seems like they have a lot of chemistry, they're working off each other."

Monahan is second on the Flames to Gaudreau with 54 points (23 goals, 31 assists). Lindholm, who was traded to the Flames by the Carolina Hurricanes on June 23, is third with 51 points (21 goals, 30 assists). Gaudreau credited those two with much of his success and said having Lindholm on his line has helped him shoot more. Gaudreau has 146 shots on goal in 45 games; he had 227 shots in 80 games last season.

"I think last year we played with Micheal Ferland, who was a little bit more of a shooter," Gaudreau said. "Lindholm, obviously, is a shooter as well, but he can see the ice really well. He can make some pretty high-end plays, so I think I just got an opportunity to shoot a little more with a player like that on my line."

Gaudreau put up steady numbers on offense in his first five NHL seasons. This season, he's producing that much more.

"He really wants to be the best and he wants to be that game-changer every single time he's on the ice," Hamonic said. "The things he can do with the puck, I could only dream of doing. Sometimes you just sit back and take a backseat on the ice and you just watch and go, 'Wow.'"

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