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Monahan, young Flames excited to start playoffs

by Kevin Woodley / NHL.com

VANCOUVER -- Calgary Flames No. 1 center Sean Monahan is excited to compete in his first Stanley Cup Playoffs on Wednesday, but after missing the regular season finale Saturday and a practice Monday to rest, the 20-year-old expects a good test in Game 1 of the Western Conference First Round series against the Vancouver Canucks (10 p.m. ET; CBC, USA, TVA).

"I think I feel ready and well rested so I think I am fresh," Monahan, who also left practice early Tuesday, said after the morning skate Wednesday. "I felt great and right now the focus is on Game 1."

Vancouver's focus will be on Monahan, who combined with rookie Johnny Gaudreau and veteran Jiri Hudler, form one of the hottest lines in the NHL since early February. Calgary's top line has 41 goals and 92 points in 31 games, and led the League in scoring in March.

"It's the playoffs, you don't want to make it easy on them," Canucks defenseman Luca Sbisa said. "Any chance you get to be hard on a guy, be physical, you have to do it but I don't think you have to take out individuals. You have to be hard on everyone."

Gaudreau, who tied for the rookie scoring lead with 64 points, is expecting more physical play.

"It's going to be a little different from the regular season for me," said Gaudreau, 21. "They are going to be obviously coming after me a little because I am little smaller guy and I'm playing with [Hudler] and [Monahan]. It's going to be a challenge."

Gaudreau and Monahan aren't the only Flames making their playoff debuts in Game 1. Calgary coach Bob Hartley has not confirmed his lineup, but 18-year-old rookie Sam Bennett likely will play in his second NHL game. Bennett, who was picked fourth by the Flames in the 2014 NHL Draft, is one of 14 players on the Flames roster who has never appeared in an NHL playoff game.

"We're all really pumped up for this game and really excited," said Bennett, who had an assist in the first shift of his debut Saturday. "There is definitely a lot of young guys in here but there are some veterans with lots of experience too. I think they are going to help all of us young guys. The young guys can bring a lot of energy and excitement."

The Canucks are hoping to counter that with experience, including the return of checking center Brad Richardson, who missed 37 of the final 39 games with an ankle injury and rested it down the stretch to be ready for the playoffs.

"It's been a really tough second half of the season thinking you're healthy and then not being able to play at all," Richardson, who was originally injured on Jan. 16, said after practice earlier this week. "Jumping back into playoff hockey will be hard but I've done it before so I'm not too concerned. I just want to be healthy. I wouldn't play if I didn't think I could be effective, and they wouldn't put me in either."

Here are the projected lineups:

FLAMES

Johnny GaudreauSean MonahanJiri Hudler

Sam BennettMikael BacklundJoe Colborne

Brandon BolligMarkus GranlundJosh Jooris

Michael FerlandMatt StajanDavid Jones

Kris RussellDennis Wideman

TJ BrodieDeryk Engelland

David SchlemkoCorey 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 (undisclosed)

CANUCKS

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 EdlerChristopher 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: Ramo will back up Hiller after missing the past three games of the regular season with a lower-body injury. Goalie Joni Ortio, who started the final game of the regular season, was sent to Adirondack of the American Hockey League on Wednesday. … Captain Mark Giordano skated with the Flames again Wednesday morning while he continues to recover from a torn biceps muscle that required surgery in March. Giordano, who resumed skating on his own Monday, isn't close to returning, but his presence can be a boost for the Flames. "He's our captain, there is not a guy that preaches the good news like Mark Giordano and to be around our team while he gets back into game shape, I think it's a great combo for us," Hartley said. … The Flames signed goalie Jon Gillies on Wednesday and he skated with them four days after winning an NCAA championship with Providence College. "It's a lot of dreams coming true at one time," said Gillies, who was selected by the Flames in the third round of the 2012 NHL Draft and left college with one more year of eligibility. "You listen to the people that you trust the most in terms of your career and that have been there for a while and know you personally on and off the ice, and when the organization that holds your rights says you are ready then I think that's who you believe the most."

Who's hot: Daniel and Henrik Sedin combined for five goals and 15 points in the final four games of the regular season.

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