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Monahan says additions have Flames thinking playoffs

Center feels new coach Peters, Neal, Lindholm, Hanifin bolster chances

by Aaron Vickers / Correspondent

CALGARY -- Sean Monahan is hopeful the changes the Calgary Flames made this offseason will be enough to help them return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs after failing to qualify last season.

"I think with the guys that [general manager Brad Treliving] brought in, it's an exciting time," said Monahan, who had an NHL career-high 64 points (31 goals, 33 assists) in 74 games last season. "I think this is my first season coming in with this kind of feeling. Talking with teammates throughout the summer, everyone has the same mindset. This is our year to prove we're a legit team, contending team, and we've got to put ourselves in a spot to do that."

Bill Peters was hired as coach April 23, replacing Glen Gulutzan. Forward Elias Lindholm and defenseman Noah Hanifin were acquired in a trade with the Carolina Hurricanes on June 23 for defenseman Dougie Hamilton, forward Micheal Ferland and defenseman prospect Adam Fox. Forwards James Neal, Derek Ryan and Austin Czarnik each signed as a free agent.


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The newcomers will join the core of Monahan, forwards Johnny Gaudreau, Matthew Tkachuk and Mikael Backlund, and defenseman Mark Giordano.

"This is my third set of coaches … I think enough is enough," said Monahan, who entered the NHL in 2013-14 under coach Bob Hartley. "I want to be a big part of this team. We have a lot of key pieces, especially some guys that we've brought in here to help this team do our job. I think starting with [Giordano] down, it's a good-looking team here and I think you just have that feel that this team is a team that can do something."

After making the playoffs in 2017, the Flames finished 11 points behind the Colorado Avalanche last season for the second wild card from the Western Conference.

Monahan missed the final seven games of the regular season and had wrist, groin and two hernia surgeries in April.

"I feel like a new man right now," the 23-year-old center said at Scotiabank Saddledome, where several Calgary players skated informally. "I'm more flexible, more mobile, meaner and stronger, so I think it's a good feeling to be healthy."

A healthy Monahan could return alongside Gaudreau on the top line with Neal, who had 44 points (25 goals, 19 assists) in 71 games with the Vegas Golden Knights last season. Neal has scored at least 21 goals in each of his 10 NHL seasons.

Video: CGY@ARI: Monahan buries rebound from the slot

"[Neal] puts the puck in the net every season," said Monahan, who has scored at least 22 goals in each of his first five NHL seasons. "He's a proven goal-scorer in this league. To have a guy like that and add him into the mix … he's a veteran guy and has been through the playoffs and is hungry to win with the chances he's got with other teams. You bring guys like that in and it makes your team deeper. Whoever I play with, you're going to be playing with great players. It's something I'm looking forward to."

Neal, 30, has played in the Stanley Cup Final the past two seasons, including with the Nashville Predators in 2017.

"I don't think you can teach experience like that," Giordano said. "He knows what it takes to get there. He knows the grind. But he's a hard guy to play against. He scores goals. You can't teach, really, that knack of finding those pockets and scoring. He can get chances, but it's another thing to put them in. I think [Monahan] is a lot like that as well. It's nice to have a few of those weapons up front."

Monahan understands the heightened expectations with new additions.

"We've got a close team," he said. "Last year, I think we had the guys to do it and we just as a group didn't do it. We have to put it together from Day One, be a consistent team and play for each other throughout the season.

"I'm just looking forward for the rest of the guys to get back here in Calgary and get the team together."

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