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Flames Need More From Their French Connection, Huberdeau, Pelletier

The Calgary Flames are in Buffalo to face the Sabres, who once had a dominant French Connection line. The Flames are hoping Jakob Pelletier and Jonathan Huberdeau can create a French connection of their own.



After Friday’s Calgary Flames practice in Buffalo, head coach Darryl Sutter reminisced about the days he had to stop the Sabres’ legendary French Connection. 

Gilbert Perreault, Rick Martin and René Robert offered quite the challenge for Sutter, who was called up by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 1980 NHL playoffs and forced to go head-to-head with Perreault and co.

Things didn’t go well for the Blackhawks, who were swept by the Sabres in the second round. 

“When you’re a buck seventy-five like I was, and you see him going 200 miles an hour and he’s over 200 lbs., coming straight at you … you get out of the way or you just kind of give in. Oh man, he was a powerful player,” Sutter told reporters in Buffalo. “There was a little pressure there. 

“It wasn’t a fun place to play.”

The Flames could use a bit of a French Connection of their own. 

Coming off a 2-1 loss to the Red Wings, practice lines indicated the return of Brett Ritchie on a fourth line with Milan Lucic and Trevor Lewis, the second line continued to feature prospect Jakob Pelletier on the opposite flank from fellow Quebecois Jonathan Huberdeau. 

Having them connect for some offence for a team that managed just one goal against the Detroit Red Wings this week would be game-changing for the Calgary Flames. 

It’s become a regular post-game comment from Sutter than they need a game-breaker to come up with a big goal in all these tight contests they’ve played this season. 

Pelletier has shown promise but is still looking for his first NHL point. 

Huberdeau didn’t register a single shot on goal in Detroit and is coming under fire from the masses with 30 games left in the season before his salary-cap hit leaps to $10.5 million a year.

The rookie earned his promotion to the second line with Huberdeau and Nazem Kadri before the Flames’ bye week and looked like it was building some chemistry before this road trip. 

“To play with Naz and Huby, it's crazy. Two superstars,” Pelletier said earlier this week in New York.”

On the brink of 30, Huberdeau has been a mentor for the 21-year-old.

He’s also been feeding the prospect well. 

"He's been nice. Last night he took me and Mack (Connor Mackey) for supper, so it's great,” Pelletier said this week. “We had a great steak, too.”

Despite making much less, Pelletier tried to chip in. The kid deserves credit for taking nothing for granted on or off the ice. 

"He did tell me, ‘I’ll get the Uber back.,’” Huberdeau revealed. “He felt bad, but I was like, 'You know what, you're going to do it when you’re older. That's how it works.’ He was like, 'Aw, thank you, thank you.’ But you can tell he's enjoying it, so it makes me want to do it even more. It's a guy that's a great person and you can tell he appreciates it.”

Huberdeau had mentors like Kris Versteeg – who hosted him in his first year in Florida to help the acclimation into the NHL. He’s paying that back with Pelletier. 

Their shared language is just a bonus.

“You have young guys that … (don't) want to intrude the older guys. So, I just feel it was the right thing to do. Especially with him being French, I want to take care of him a little more, so I texted him in the summer,” Huberdeau said. “It was a new team for me, too, and know there's another French guy there. It's cool. And there’s (defensive prospect Jeremie) Poirier and some other guys — you always want to take care of the guys from Quebec.”

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