Back to the blender: New Flames forward lines ahead of Habs matchup

Overall, the Calgary Flames sit at 4-8-2, good for 10 points and sixth in the Pacific Division (still three points up on the desperate Edmonton Oilers). They’re currently on the road with one more game to complete a three-game eastern Canadian swing through Toronto, Ottawa, and Montréal. In order to come home with a .500 record on the trip, the Flames need to collect two points against Sean Monahan (13 points in 15 games) and the Canadiens before coming home to host the Canucks on Thursday. With getting Huberdeau going still top of mind for Ryan Huska and the coaching staff, it appears as though the blender is back in action – here are the Flames forward lines from practice this morning:

There are a few notable observations when it comes to the Flames forward lines.

Huberdeau has been moved off of Lindholm’s wing

Elias Lindholm had a decent start to the season, but has recently dropped off, drawing criticism from fans and media. Part of his lacking production could be due to his consistent pairing with struggling winger Jonathan Huberdeau.

However, it looks like there’s an effort being made to not only get Huberdeau clicking, but to get more out of Lindholm as well. Given the nod to replace Huberdeau on the “top” line’s left wing alongside Lindholm and Andrew Mangiapane (still seeking career goal number 100) is Adam Ruzicka. I’m interested to see if these three can find some chemistry together.

If 63-28-88 click, perhaps we’ve seen the end of the Huberdeau-Lindholm experiment that just hasn’t seemed to work.

Will consistent 200-foot hockey help Huberdeau?

Moved from the top line to the third line with team captain Mikael Backlund and his go-to right winger Blake Coleman, will combining Jonathan Huberdeau with guys who play a 200-foot game help create space for 10 to find his game?

A common strategy among Flames coaches over the past decade or so has been to place new or struggling wingers with Backlund. I’m still not sure anything will help Huberdeau suddenly find it, but nothing else has worked, so I don’t blame Huska and Savard for coming to this conclusion in advance of a hometown game for Huberdeau.

Again, I’m genuinely rooting for Huby, but we’re well over a season into what is starting to feel like a never-ending experiment.

Kadri and the kids

The Flames best line recently has been centred by Nazem Kadri, who’s seemed to emerge from his funk with a youth injection on his line. The line looked great with Kadri between Connor Zary and Yegor Sharangovich, but today’s lines reflect a bit of a change-up here as well – likely to reward recent recall Martin Pospisil, who has replaced Sharangovich on Kadri’s line.

Kadri has six points in his last five games (1G, 5A). Zary has four (2G, 2A). Pospisil has been in the Flames lineup for four and has tallied four points (2G, 2A).

Can Duehr do ‘er?

Drawing in on the fourth line is Walker Duehr, who looks set to return to the Flames lineup tomorrow. Coming out will be A.J. Greer. This could be a result of Huska’s reluctance to healthy scratch the same player repetitively. Personally, I like the mentality of keeping guys fresh versus sitting them in the press box for extended periods of time without playing an actual hockey game.

However, I am somewhat surprised that one of the bubble guys has become Duehr, which might be more a product of the success of Zary and Pospisil than a knock on Duehr.

Duehr will skate with Dubé in the middle and Yegor Sharangovich on the left side of the fourth line.


What are your thoughts on yet another new-look set of Calgary Flames forward lines?