The Tkachuk brothers are big, strong, physical hockey players who are as competitive as they come. So, when the Calgary Flames and Matthew Tkachuk visit the Ottawa Senators and his younger brother, Brady, on Sunday night, the potential for some fireworks is real.
“For all the people coming in, it’s probably more of an event than a game,” 21-year-old Matthew told the Flames website. “I’m sure everybody in the NHL who’s played against their brother, after a while, feels like it’s just another game. Well, this isn’t just another game. It’s the first game. So, it’s a special one.”
Special enough their parents, Chantal and former NHLer Keith Tkachuk, will be on-hand for the tilt.
“I’m super-excited,” said Brady, 19. “It’s gonna be a little different, a little weird, for sure. To finally be playing against each other, and at the highest level, is pretty cool. This isn’t going to change the way either of us play, though. We’re going to go hard. Family before and after, but inside the game you’re not changing a thing.”
In his rookie season, Brady has collected 13 goals and 30 points in 50 games. Matthew, in his third NHL campaign, has already equaled his career high with 24 goals and set a new mark with 59 points in 61 games. That said, facing his younger brother could be the tonic he needs, as the older Tkachuk has no goals and four assists in 13 games.
The clubs are certainly heading in different directions. The Senators, who sit last in the league, have begun selling off what few stars their have. On Friday they dealt away Matt Duchene to the Columbus Blue Jackets and the promptly lost a 3-0 game to them hours later. On Saturday, they dealt away forward Ryan Dzingel, also to Columbus.
Pending unrestricted free agent forward Mark Stone won’t play again for the Senators unless he is re-signed by the team as the organization looks to trade him away by Monday’s deadline.
With the upheaval, combined with not having their best players in the lineup lately to avoid potential injuries, Ottawa has been shutout in two straight games, lost three consecutive affairs and dropped five of six outings. Worse yet, the Senators traded away their first-round pick to acquire Duchene last season, which very well could be the top selection in the 2019 NHL Draft.
Meanwhile, the Flames are atop the Western Conference and won their fourth straight game with a 2-1 home victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Friday night.
While the Flames are known for being one of the most prolific offensive teams in the NHL, they’ve shown better defensive play in their last few games as they prepare for the playoffs.
“We’re comfortable we can win in any type of game,” Matthew Tkachuk said after the victory over the Ducks. “We’re comfortable no matter how it goes that we can win.”
“It was a real tight game, just trying to throw pucks at the net and make plays wherever you can,” added Andrew Mangiapane, who scored the game winner. “It was just tight, just a lucky bounce that went our way. It was definitely good for our confidence, just grinding one out, sticking with it and playing a full 60 (minutes).”