New Year's Eve line shuffle has brought out best in Flames' Huberdeau and Mangiapane

The Flames’ line shuffle does seem to have made a profound impact

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In this case, the numbers don’t lie.

Since the Calgary Flames moved Andrew Mangiapane back to a line with Blake Coleman and Mikael Backlund, he has been on a heater.

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Moving Jonathan Huberdeau off that line and putting him in the spot where Mangiapane had been skating previously, next to Elias Lindholm and Yegor Sharangovich? That’s seemed to work wonders for the winger’s game.

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Both guys have seen their production skyrocket.

But sometimes, points totals can be deceiving. Guys can be picking up secondary assists without actually playing all that well, for example.

That doesn’t seem to be the case with Mangiapane and Huberdeau, though.

“They’re playing better, for sure,” Flames head coach Ryan Huska said prior to Tuesday night’s game with the Arizona Coyotes. “With Andrew, first, for whatever reason, every time they’re together, they’re one of the more dangerous lines chance-wise in the NHL. They’re also guys that can play against top lines.

“With Jonathan now, it seems like there’s more chemistry between Elias and (Sharangovich) and they’re starting to make plays and control the play a little bit more, as well. Without a doubt, both guys have seen an uptick in play.”

The Flames made their little line shuffle prior to their New Year’s Eve win over the Philadelphia Flyers and it does seem to have made a profound impact.

They’ve won six of the eight games they’ve played since making the move and are getting consistent production out of their top three lines.

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Huberdeau has eight points in those eight games. That’s a point-a-game pace, obviously, and represents a significant improvement over the 0.42 points per game he was putting up in the Flames’ previous 35 contests.

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While previous attempts to pair Huberdeau with Lindholm haven’t yielded inspiring results over the past season and a half, something seems to be clicking.

Having a goal-scorer like Sharangovich firing on all cylinders definitely helps.

“I mean, he’s a shooter, so on a two-on-one, I’m going to try to find him,” Huberdeau said. “And Lindy, too, I think he’s been frustrated he hasn’t scored in a bit, but I told him we’ve got to keep grinding. I’ve been through it and I still am, but I’m trying to pass to him a little bit and we’re trying to get him going. It would be nice to get Lindy a goal and after that I think the confidence is there.”

The improvement in Mangiapane’s game over the past couple weeks has been just as notable.

Andrew Mangiapane
Andrew Mangiapane of the Calgary Flames skates with the puck against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center on January 2, 2024 in St Paul, Minnesota. David Berding/Getty Images

He, too, has been on a point-a-game pace in his eight games back with Backlund and Coleman. That’s a substantial improvement over his previous pace. He had 17 points through 34 games prior to the reunion, which represented a 0.50 point-per-game output.

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The three have a history of success together, so it’s probably not a surprise to see them playing well, but it’s certainly encouraging for a Flames team that needs Mangiapane — and Huberdeau — to be dangerous night in and night out.

“I think for whatever reason, I’ve said it before, we just kind of think the game the same way and know when somebody needs help and kinda get close and support each other,” Mangiapane said. “This guy, I know he’s going to beat someone one-on-one and I know to just get open. I think we just kinda have that chemistry with knowing where each other are on the ice.

“The effort’s there, the bounces are kind of coming and things like that. I think my finish, I could still do better in that category, but I feel like I’m creating some chances, some Grade A’s, but just got to bear down and score.

“It’s good that they’re kind of coming now and you’re creating, we’re creating as a line and obviously Colesy and Backsy are having really good seasons and I’m just trying to help them out.”

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Markstrom out

After leaving Monday morning’s practice early, Jacob Markstrom was ruled out for Tuesday’s game against the Coyotes.

With that news, Dustin Wolf was recalled from the Calgary Wranglers. He was expected to back up Dan Vladar for Tuesday’s game.

Markstrom has been among the best goalies in the NHL for much of the season and has elevated his game even more in recent weeks, so Flames fans will breathe a sigh of relief when they hear he’s not expected to be sidelined for long.

“We’re not expecting it to be anything long-term, but no timetable,” Huska said after Tuesday’s practice. “It just didn’t respond the way we or he would have hoped.”

Wolf is 1-2-1 in four starts this season with the Flames and is having another stellar season in the AHL with the Wranglers, where he has been selected to play in the 2024 AHL all-star classic.

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