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Tkachuk Says Weirdness Won’t Last in First Against Flames

Calgary Flames take on Matthew Tkachuk and the Florida Panthers for the first time since the summer’s blockbuster trade between the two teams.

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Former Calgary Flames star Matthew Tkachuk said he’d be lying if he said it was just another game. 

And then he went and said it was just another game. 

“It’s a little bit different facing your former team. But at the end of the day, it is just another game,” Tkachuk told reporters after practice on Friday. “it’s a game that our team has to win.”

Funny, the Flames feel the same way. 

Rolling into the east side of the peninsula for Saturday’s late-afternoon contest against Tkachuk’s Florida Panthers, the Calgary Flames (7-7-2) have lost eight of their last 10 games. 

The Panthers are just a couple of wins above .500. 

Sure, the two points are important for all involved. And no one wants them more than Tkachuk, and the two top players who went the other way in the summer blockbuster trade between these clubs. 

But it’s not just another game for any of them. Not for Tkachuk, Jonathan Huberdeau or MacKenzie Weegar. 

Probably not for their new teammates, either. 

“It’s extra special for me knowing pretty much all those guys over there. Playing against them, it’s going to be weird,” Tkachuk said. “Calgary’s the only team I’ve played on. I was there for six years, so that’s a pretty decent enough time that it’ll be weird for probably first shift or maybe just seeing the guys. 

“After that it’s just back to business.”

Business has been good for Tkachuk this season. Playing a little more than half this young season with Aleksander Barkov and Carter Verhaeghe, Tkachuk has racked up six goals and 22 points in 15 games to sit top 10 in the standings despite a two-game suspension. 

Every goal has come at even strength, and so have 17 of his points — tied for second in the NHL. 

His 72 shots also rank in the top 10, as are the 21:12 he’s averaging per game. 

In some interviews this week, he’s raved about the lifestyle in South Florida and how happy he is. Tkachuk takes a golf cart — his prized possession — everywhere but the rink. It’s tough to be unhappy wearing flip flops to the rink. 

The 24-year-old, who politely forced his way out of Calgary and allowed Flames GM Brad Treliving to pick up some major assets in the deal, triggered a massive sign-and-trade by disclosing his intentions to go to free agency after this season. 

Now locked up for eight more with the Panthers, he’s quickly adapted to the humidity. The growing pains are a bit more drastic in chilly Calgary for Jonathan 

Although some of Tkachuk’s recent podcast comments (or avoidance) about former coach Darryl Sutter would suggest he wasn’t his biggest fan, Sutter sounds pretty understanding of Tkachuk’s choice to leave. And that he’d earned the right after a bridge deal with a final year following a career season. 

Sutter also mentioned the challenges presented by the pandemic, which took a toll on so many players — especially the younger ones. 

“I think COVID sort of alienated him from his family, from the U.S. There was times I felt sorry for Matthew last year,” Sutter said on Friday. “He was always at the rink and I was always at the rink, and he couldn’t go anywhere. He couldn’t go home. 

“Good on him for going to Brad about it. That’s what I think. Obviously, we lost a top player. Hey, you score 40 goals and get 60 assists and you’re plus-50 — good on ya.”

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