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The Flames are on fire: Make that nine straight wins

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Look at those Pacific Division standings.

The San Jose Sharks remain at the top. That’s not really a surprise. The Anaheim Ducks are seven points back. They’ve been a force in that division for years now.

And then you have the Calgary Flames. Yes, the Flames. On Saturday, they won their ninth consecutive game, defeating the Winnipeg Jets 3-0 to move to 80 points this season and second place in the division, jumping over the Ducks and provincial rival Edmonton Oilers.

Dougie Hamilton was a game-time decision, but by the time this game ended, he had three assists. Mikael Backlund, at age 27, continued the best season of his career, scoring his 21st goal late in the first period. It counted as the winner. Known to be an agitating forward at times, Matthew Tkachuk added an assist, his 32nd, as he continues to make an impact as a 19-year-old rookie.

This is a team getting plenty of offensive contributions outside of the usual suspects in Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau. Remember in 2015 when they built a reputation as the comeback kids, qualifying for the playoffs with the 28th-ranked Corsi For percentage at five-on-five and the fifth best PDO? It didn’t seem at all sustainable for the future and they finished 10 points out of a playoff spot the following year.

Poor special teams and too many goals against were among the reasons for a coaching change last spring.

Fast-forward a year later, and this is a Flames team that has accrued strong possession numbers at five-on-five.Subpar goaltending was something GM Brad Treliving took responsibility for last year, and he took steps to remedy that.

He traded for Brian Elliott and signed Chad Johnson as a free agent. Lately, Elliott has been solid for Calgary. In his last 10 starts, only once has he allowed more than two goals in a single game. He now has back-to-back shutouts.

The Flames can extend their winning streak to 10 games when they face the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday.

Kings give another kid a look, recall AHL All-Star Brodzinski

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Last summer, Kings head coach Darryl Sutter stressed that some of the club’s young prospects needed to make an impact at the NHL level.

And now it’s happening.

Following the recalls and NHL debuts of Adrian Kempe and Paul LaDue, the Kings have brought up Jonny Brodzinski from AHL Ontario, the club announced on Thursday.

Brodzinski, 23, made the AHL All-Star team this year and leads the Reign in goals, with 25 through 56 games. The former St. Could State sniper left school early two years ago to join the Kings organization, after L.A. took him in the fifth round of the ’13 draft.

As mentioned above, this recall is in lockstep with what’s developed throughout the year. Kempe, 20, was the club’s first-round pick (29th overall) in ’14 and has fared well since joining the big club, with six points in 16 games.

LaDue, 24, was a sixth-round pick in ’12 that — like Kempe and Brodzinski — fared well in the American League before getting recalled in February. LaDue has appeared in 15 games for the Kings, scoring five points while averaging 16:25 TOI per night.

Los Angeles is still technically in the playoff race, but sits eight points back of Nashville for the final wild card spot in the Western Conference — with just 10 games to play. As such, the focus might now shift to giving some youngsters NHL experience.

Brodzinski will have to wait for his, however. Per LA Kings Insider, it doesn’t look like he’ll play tonight, when the Kings host the Jets at Staples.

 

 

Polak gets two games for boarding Bjorkstrand

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Roman Polak‘s hit on Oliver Bjorkstrand has drawn more than the ire of Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella.

Today, the NHL announced that Polak, a defenseman for the Toronto Maple Leafs, has been suspended two games for boarding Bjorkstrand Wednesday in Columbus.

In making the ruling, the league’s Department of Player Safety determined that Polak sent Bjorkstrand “violently” into the boards from behind, causing an injury. The DoPS also noted that the hit was avoidable, with the onus on Polak to “ensure that he avoids this hit entirely, or at the very least, minimizes the force of the impact.”

You can watch the full ruling below:

Wild prospect Kunin leaves Wisconsin, turns pro

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Minnesota is getting one of its prized youngsters in the mix.

Luke Kunin, the club’s first-round pick (15th overall) at last year’s draft, is leaving the University of Wisconsin following his sophomore campaign, per the Star-Tribune. Kunin will reportedly join Minnesota’s AHL affiliate in Iowa on an amateur tryout.

Kunin, 19, is coming off a pretty successful campaign. He was the first soph to captain the Badgers in over 40 years, and led the team in goals (22) and points (38). That came after he captained the U.S. to gold at the world juniors, scoring four points in seven games.

Per TSN’s Bob McKenzie, Kunin will play out this year in the minors, and his entry-level deal will kick in next season. That means he won’t be with the Wild at all this year — regular season or playoffs.

As mentioned, Kunin is just one of the many talented prospects Minnesota has in the fold. Russian Kirill Kaprizov, Sweden’s Joel Eriksson-Ek and Kunin’s U.S. junior teammate, Jordan Greenway, all showed extremely well at the worlds.

Hurricanes sign Finnish prospect Kuokkanen

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The Carolina Hurricanes have another talented, young Finn under contract.

The ‘Canes announced this morning that they’ve signed forward Janne Kuokkanen to a three-year, entry-level contract.

Kuokkanen was drafted in the second round, 43rd overall, in 2016. The 18-year-old is currently with the OHL’s London Knights. He finished the regular season with 26 goals and 36 assists in 60 games.

“Janne was outstanding in our rookie tournament in Traverse City in September, and stayed in North America to continue his development in the Ontario Hockey League,” said ‘Canes GM Ron Francis in a release. “He’s a smart, skilled forward and we look forward to the start of his professional career.”

The ‘Canes already have two Finnish forwards in Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen.

Aho and Kuokkanen were teammates in the Karpat (Liiga) development system in Finland.