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The Calgary Flames played arguably their best game of the season on Thursday against the Buffalo Sabres. Part of the credit has to go to interim coach Geoff Ward, who shuffled lines heading into the game and then shuffled again mid-game.

There’s been a lot of chatter about Johnny Gaudreau so far this season. One of the top offensive players in the entire NHL last season, he hasn’t seemed his usual self this season. (He’s currently 60th in the league in points after being top 10 in 2018-19.)

With an eye towards sparking Gaudreau a bit, Ward shuffled the lines up:

  • Elias Lindholm between Matthew Tkachuk and Andrew Mangiapane
  • Sean Monahan between Mikael Backlund and Dillon Dube
  • Derek Ryan between Gaudreau and Milan Lucic
  • Mark Jankowski with Michael Frolik and Tobias Rieder, as per usual

Midway though the game, seeing Gaudreau had responded to the shuffle, Ward flipped Dube back to his “usual” spot with Ryan and Lucic and put Gaudreau back together with Monahan.

Ward was pleased with Gaudreau’s overall performance:

I thought he was really good. I thought he had a lot of energy. I thought he was on pucks. He looked like his old self, making plays, getting across the blueline. Two passes he made in the second period, across to Hanifin there, when we saw those we knew he had some juice going. Once he got together with Monny a little bit later in the game, you saw some of that old magic starting to happen again.

In just 11 minutes of five-on-five ice time, Gaudreau had four shots and three scoring chances. He hasn’t yet had a truly dominant game this season, but Thursday night was a nice flicker of hope that his game is on the way back to where it was last season.

Speaking of the third line, Lucic scored his first goal as a Flame (and first since Apr. 2) while Ryan had a pair of helpers. Since Dube was called up on Nov. 17, only five Flames forwards have more points than he does: Monahan, Tkachuk, Lindholm, Gaudeau and Ryan. It’s only eight games, but Dube’s presence in the lineup seems to slot everybody where they need to be.

It’ll be interesting to see what Ward does with the lineup once Austin Czarnik returns from his AHL conditioning assignment and slides back into the Flames lineup.

The Flames remain undefeated with Ward behind the bench (3-0-0) and are currently, quietly, riding a five game point streak (4-0-1).