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Flames Getting Healthy: Huberdeau Ready To Roll With Backlund, Lewis



Jonathan Huberdeau, Calgary Flames, Tyler Toffoli, Elias Lindholm

In case you wanted proof that Calgary Flames winger Jonathan Huberdeau is a good 200-foot player, the reason he has missed three games is evidence.

And it may lead to an equipment upgrade.

“I just blocked a shot,” Huberdeau told reporters on Sunday. “It just swelled up. It was hard, but now everything’s fine.”

Asked if he was going to block some more, he stuck in some of his trademark humour, looking down at his feet.

“Yeah. Actually, I forgot. I’m going to have shot blockers for the first time.”

Huberdeau practiced fully on Sunday and is expected to play alongside Mikael Backlund and Trevor Lewis Monday against the Los Angeles Kings. It’s an important development for the Flames, whether he really comes out with the plastic protectors over his laces or not.

They snapped their seven-game slump while he was recovering. Saturday’s win over the Winnipeg Jets was a re-set of sorts for the Flames. Huberdeau might have missed it, but his own re-set seemed to come in his previous game — arguably his best as a member of the Calgary Flames.

He looked more comfortable in the overtime loss to the New York Islanders last Monday. Hitting teammates in stride with his trademark passes got him on the scoresheet. Throwing up screens and blocking shots showed his commitment.

He covered a lot of ice. And while he doesn’t display the blazing speed of someone like Johnny Gaudreau, Huberdeau is shifty in subtle but mesmerizing ways.

“I think when I move my feet, that’s when I’m at my best,” Huberdeau said. “I’m not the fastest, but … I like passing the puck and I think it opens up more lanes.”

His new teammates are learning that a pass can come at any time. Usually with velocity. And it doesn’t matter which way Huberdeau is moving or looking.

He’ll likely start with Backlund and Lewis as head coach Darryl Sutter seeks more balance and chemistry on the roster.

“They’re good,” Huberdeau said of his practice mates. “They’re veteran guys, smart players. They read the game real well. Lewy (Trevor Lewis) can score some nice goals, too.

“I’m excited to have a chance to play with them.”

They might be more thrilled about the opportunity to play alongside Huberdeau.

While they’re known more for defensive play, both Backlund and Lewis have shown they’re capable of taking advantage of mismatches. Creating offence from defence is kind of their thing.

Having an elite passer on the left is never a bad thing. But the elite passer is focused on their areas of expertise first. The rest will come from that.

“They get the puck defensively and I’ll do the same thing. I’m going to be responsible in my own end and go in the right direction,” Huberdeau said.

“For us, we want to keep things simple. Get shots on net, get traffic and try to score some goals.”

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