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Flames vs. Panthers GameDay: Five storylines to watch

Calgary Flames center Mark Jankowski, center, celebrates with teammates after scoring agains the Florida Panthers during the third period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson) ORG XMIT: FLBA124
Calgary Flames center Mark Jankowski, center, celebrates with teammates after scoring agains the Florida Panthers during the third period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson) ORG XMIT: FLBA124

THURSDAY

Florida Panthers (4-2-3) at Calgary Flames (5-5-1)

7 p.m. MT, Scotiabank Saddledome, Sportsnet Flames, Sportsnet 960 The Fan

THE BIG MATCHUP

Flames C Sean Monahan vs. Panthers G Sergei Bobrovsky

It’s been three games without a point for Sean Monahan while he hasn’t found the back of the net in nine. That seems like an eternity for a goal-scorer. Frustrations are starting to mount for the 25-year-old and that might mean bad news for Sergei Bobrovsky (3-2-2, 3.75 goals against average and .878 save percentage).

FIVE STORYLINES FOR THE GAME

BENNY’S BACK

Flames centre Sam Bennett is good-to-go for Thursday’s game against the Panthers after missing two games with a lower body injury. The 23-year-old mustachioed Lanny McDonald look-alike left Saturday’s clash in Los Angeles early in the third period after a collision with Kings’ defenceman Kurtis MacDermid.

FIRST LINE PROBLEMS

It’s been a slow start for the Flames first liners this year. Or, better yet, for those not named Elias Lindholm (who has been excellent with six goals and one assist). It’s Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau who have been most quiet on the scoresheet. Monahan is point-less in three games, goal-less in nine and only has two goals and four assists in 11 games. Gaudreau, meanwhile, has three goals and six assists in 11 games but hasn’t scored since Oct. 12 at Vegas. “They’re due,” said Flames head coach Bill Peters. “They’ll get that changed around here.”

SLOPPY SECOND PERIODS

In the last three games, Calgary has given up early goals in the middle frame. Against the Washington Capitals on Tuesday, they allowed a marker 35-seconds into the second period. Only 12 seconds had passed on Sunday against the Anaheim Ducks before they allowed a goal. And, on Saturday against the Los Angeles Kings, they were scored on 16 seconds in.

SLOW START

The Flames are 5-5-1 which is exactly their record at this time last year after they played the Washington Capitals and, also, got whipped by the Pittsburgh Penguins 9-1. On one hand, it is still early in the 2019-20 campaign. On the other, the leaves have nearly fallen off the trees and it’s starting to get colder and colder — it’s not THAT early. “We want to be playing better,” said Flames head coach Bill Peters. “We want the process to evolve quicker and we have to say with it. There’s only so much you can do. Today was a good day, a good video session, things we have to do better and get back to … we’ve got room to improve. We’re well aware of that and we’d like to see that (Thursday) night.”

THIS N’ THAT

Flames LW Johnny Gaudreau missed Wednesday’s practice because he was sick … C Sam Bennett was skating in his place on the team’s first line … Based on Wednesday’s line rushes, it looks like D TJ Brodie is back with Flames captain Mark Giordano and D Oliver Kylington will draw back into the lineup with Rasmus Andersson … This is the start of a four-game road trip for the Florida Panthers who are coming off Tuesday’s 4-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins … The Flames split their 2018-19 season series with the Panthers, winning 4-3 in Calgary and losing 3-2 in a shootout on Feb. 14 in Florida.

PANTHERS LINEUP

Forwards

Jonathan Huberdeau — Alexsander Barkov — Evgenii Dadonov
Mike Hoffman — Brian Boyle — Brett Connolly
Frank Vatrano — Denis Malgin — Jayce Hawryluk
Dryden Hunt — Noel Acciari — Colton Sceviour

Defence

Michael Matheson — Antron Stralman
Mackenzie Weegar — Mark Pysk
Keith Yandle — Josh Brown

Goaltenders

Sergei Bobrovsky
Samuel Montembeault

FLAMES LINEUP

Forwards

Johnny Gaudreau – Sean Monahan – Elias Lindholm
Matthew Tkachuk – Mikael Backlund – Michael Frolik
Andrew Mangiapane — Derek Ryan – Sam Bennett
Milan Lucic – Mark Jankowski – Austin Czarnik

Defence

Mark Giordano — TJ Brodie
Noah Hanifin – Travis Hamonic
Oliver Kylington – Rasmus Andersson

Goaltenders

David Rittich
Cam Talbot

INJURIES

Panthers — Vincent Trocheck (undisclosed), D Aaron Ekblad (illness)
Flames — D Juuso Valimaki (knee)

SPECIAL TEAMS (before Wednesday’s action)

Power play

Panthers — 20% (six-of-30, T-14th)
Flames — 16.7% (six-of-36, 22nd)

Penalty kill

Panthers: 87% (6th)
Flames: 88.4% (3rd)

kanderson@postmedia.com

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