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Flame depth to be tested with the Monahan sideways



Calgary – The depth of Calgary Flames is being tested.

So is Bill Peter's juggling skills.

On a night when Matthew Tkachuk joked the offensive with a remarkable five-point binge, Sean Monahan dominated the chatter with an injury that opened a significant hole in the line.

Flame's best center left Friday's victory over the Rangers after playing nine minutes in the first period.

It was not preceded by a sacred hit or an obvious tweak, he simply did not return for the second period.

Bill Peters said after the match Monahan suffered from an illness similar to the one who mourned Mike Smith this week and confirmed that his senior center will not travel to Winnipeg after the game for a Saturday night with the jets.

The early night comes three days after the Monahan was asked to leave the game of an NHL concussion spotter after a big hit by New Jersey's Blake Coleman. Flames first line returned to that game and was practiced with the club on Thursday. He spoke to the media, but one has to wonder if complications from the battle contributed to the disease.

The absence of his 31-goal scorer dampens Derek Ryan in a spotlight that is likely to see him anchor top trio.

Ryan filled Monahan's place during Friday's game and has confidence in Peters, as the 32-year-old center played for three years in Carolina before joining the coach in Calgary as a free agent last summer.

Peters will now have to decide if the pivot that they call "Doc" can act as a viable Band-Aid between Johnny Gaudreau and Elias Lindholm on a top line that had 14 points a game earlier.

Moving Lindholm to the center and putting Tkachuk up with the big guys can seem like a logical solution.

But the coach would probably be hesitant to break up the second unit Mikael Backlund, Michael Frolik and Tkachuk because they sent 11 points two games earlier.

On Friday they added eight more, including a career-binding night for Tkachuk, who had two goals and three assisted.

"It's not a contest," laughed the 21-year-old, who extended his career in goal (32), assisting (41) and scoring (73).

"Although the last shift, Backs and Fro wanted me to have sex like Johnny (Gaudreau) last match, but I might have tipped it and couldn't do it."

There are 10 points in Flames three-game homestanding for the ongoing limited free agent, who is undoubtedly in line to be the highest paid Flame of all time this summer of over $ 7 million annually.

It took Tkachuk 23 games ahead of the trio of outings to rack up 10 points, as the two best lines went through a well-documented decline.

Tkachuk's career evening opened with a long bomb from his own zone that he turned 90 meters to where Gaudreau pulled in and put a world-class tire on Alexandar Georgiev to open the score.

"I saw Johnny flying and I saw that the defense man did not look at me, so if I threw it in the air he could not turn around and catch it," said Tkachuk of the high point that bounced and almost stopped on the opposition's blue line.

"It landed with a happy bounce and Johnny went in and ended it with a good move. Frankly, I think that the highlight is that Johnny hits the guy and sort of roots him with speed, gets a happy bounce and does it on Georgiev."

Tkachuk's brand transformation of a Mark Giordano shot made it 2-1 early in the second before beautiful Tkachuk sets for Garnet Hathaway and Frolik were easily converted.

Another Tkachuk goal halfway through the third salted game away, and once again helped the Flames tips San Jose to the top in the West – a tough place to live without your best center.

"I think he's just under the weather and won't be traveling – we don't want it going through the team," Peters of Monahan said.

"He just didn't feel the first. We hope it's what it is, so we won't put him on the plane."

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The flames have largely been undamaged by the damage defect this season. Slightly more than a short illness can be tedious for a club preparation for their first two-year playoff spin.

The flames recently urged Stockton's leading scorer, Alan Quine, from minors and will be pushing the left photographer on Saturday, probably as the fourth center.

Peters said he will also make changes defensively in an attempt to get some more of his nine blades in the line. Rasmus Andersson stayed in the game after a healthy slash on the wrist of Brett Howden, but may be a candidate for the nurse that Saturday.

David Rittich won his third straight start, making 24 saves as the club tries to determine which netmine will start the playoffs for the team.


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