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Johnny Gaudreau back in Flames lineup

Forward will play against Ducks after missing 10 games with fractured finger

by Aaron Vickers / Correspondent

CALGARY -- Left wing Johnny Gaudreau will be in the lineup when the Calgary Flames play the Anaheim Ducks at Scotiabank Saddledome on Sunday (9:30 p.m. ET; SN360, SNW, FS-W, NHL.TV).

Gaudreau, 23, has missed the past 10 games after undergoing surgery to repair a fractured finger sustained at the Minnesota Wild on Nov. 15. He left the game at 7:22 of the third period after taking a stick to his hand from Wild forward Eric Staal and was expected to miss about six weeks.

"I'm ready to play," Gaudreau said. "I think the finger's healed up pretty well there. I'm just excited to get things going here.

"I think they did a great job with my finger and we did a great job rehabbing it. They keep tell me it's going to be [easier] to break the nine other fingers than to re-hurt this one. It feels good. It feels good when I shoot. I'm excited to finally get out there."

Gaudreau has five goals and 11 points in 17 games. He had three goals in three games when he sustained the injury after scoring twice in his first 14. 

"I thought he was good to go a long time ago," Flames coach Glen Gulutzan said. "He's been chomping at the bit forever to play. He really wanted to play. Kudos to him. He went through some pain early with that finger. A few nights there ... if anybody's had a broken finger with screws in it, there were a few nights he didn't sleep. 

"He worked real hard. Our coaches, when we came back here, the conditioning he did while we were gone they felt while we were skating him the last three days that his conditioning was right where it needed to be. Real good on him to put in the work." 

Gaudreau, who signed a six-year contract reportedly worth $40.5 million (an average annual value of $6.75 million) on Oct. 10, will wear specialized gloves with added protection.  

"There's a lot more padding," Gaudreau said. "That was one of the protocols to being able to play tonight was wearing those blocker pads. It'll be a little time to get used to but I think it's going to help me in the long run."

Gulutzan expects the new equipment to be an easy adjustment for Gaudreau.

"There would be some apprehension had he not been skating with it for a long time," he said. "I guess the positive side of something with a finger and the plate in there is that you can skate a little earlier, you can try it out. He's been going almost two weeks with that glove. 

"He's used to everything that's there. The only thing you worry about was if it's uncomfortable when you try to put extra pads in to get a guy to play but he's used to it now with those gloves."

Gulutzan doesn't have any concern about returning Gaudreau to the lineup with the Flames playing their best hockey of the season, either. Calgary (12-13-2) went 6-3-1 during Gaudreau's absence, including 3-2-1 on a six-game road trip, and is in fifth place in the Pacific Division with 26 points, three behind the third-place Ducks.

"Absolutely no apprehension," Gulutzan said. "When you have a player of that caliber and he's a great character guys. He's been in our meetings the last three or four days in going through. We had a little chat the other day within the group. He's got to watch the games and get a different perspective while he's out. 

"We're just excited to have him back in."

Gaudreau also welcomes the early return. 

"I was pretty determined to try to rehab this as much as possible," Gaudreau said. "A lot of icing the finger, a lot of hours in the trainer's room with (rehabilitation consultant Kevin Wagner) there. He stayed behind on the road trip with me. A lot of thanks to him, too. We did a great job."


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