CALGARY, Alberta — The similarities between three-time NHL All-Star left wing Johnny Gaudreau and sophomore Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere this season are striking.
Both have had very up and down seasons. Both are minus players. Ghost has been benched several games. Gaudreau was demoted to the fourth line this week, but is expected to move back up to the Flames’ top line tonight against the Flyers.
And both were victims of bad turnovers that led directly to goals, then to their own individual punishments.
“There’s been ups and downs and injury too,” Gaudreau said this morning. “It’s difficult to go through that and a lot to learn from.”
Gaudreau, the South Jersey native who played with Gostisbehere for Team North America at the World Cup of Hockey, said he has followed what’s been happening to his buddy back in Philly.
“It’s part of hockey,” he said. “If it were easy, everyone would do it. It’s difficult at times, but you learn. We’re both young guys in this league.
“I got to play with him at the World Cup and he’s a fantastic young player. A fun player to play with and a great teammate. I’m sure he’ll be just fine.
“He’s smart with the puck. He’s a skilled player. So skilled. ... What I like about him is how he uses that skill to break out in the defensive zone. He was great for us in the World Cup.”
Gaudreau had a costly giveaway this week against Arizona that helped turn a 1-0 affair into a 5-0 rout.
After the mistake, and during the game, Gaudreau moved to the fourth line.
Flames coach Glen Gulutzan sat Gaudreau down and talked to him on Tuesday.
“For me, Johnny is just a little snakebit right now,” Gulutzan said. “He’s getting some real good looks. We went through all of his numbers over the last three weeks.
“We looked at his goals and his goals from last year and he’s getting into the same areas, good shooting positions and lots of chances. Creating lots of chances. It’s just not going in at the rate. We think it will change.”
Gaudreau and Gostisbehere didn't speak to each other Wednesday. Ghost did say he is aware of what his friend is going through, as well.
“We know we’re really good players,” Gostisbehere said. “He’s an unbelievable player. It’s just something you go through at times. It’s something you figure out. A little adversity but you don’t jump ship.
“Especially him, he’ll be fine and I think I will, too. You just have to get through the tough times. ... He was part of that team [with me] and it was fun. We came together real quick as a team.
“When you see guys who have great years, the expectations are so high for young guys. People sometimes forget how young we are. Just barely played 100 games in the league. I definitely don’t have everything figured out. It’s just adjusting to things.”
Both the Flames and Flyers are scrambling to make the playoffs. Calgary is a point out of the wild card in the West. The Flyers remain two points out in the East.
This game is critical because it’s part of a three-game road trip for the Flyers and they have just five games over the next two weeks.
The Flames are 4-6 in their last 10 and trying to get their overall game back where it was earlier this season.
“We need to bounce back here,” Gaudreau said. “That first game back from the break wasn’t very good and the guys realize we have to put it behind us.
“One thing we’ve been trying to get better at all year is when we are down a goal or two, we’re not out of it. If you look two seasons ago, we'd be down two or three and came back. You can never play like you're down.”
While both these teams talked about the importance of getting points to help their playoff aspirations, Hakstol said he didn’t feel required to remind the Flyers that this begins a stretch where other clubs are playing with games in hand while they have fewer games and far between to earn points.
“I don’t think there’s any need for reminders there,” Hakstol said. “We all know where we’re at and very clear on the importance of every point. So no reminders are necessary. Just make sure we’re doing the things we need to do on our game.”
Just one lineup change for the Flyers tonight against the Flames.
Roman Lyubimov will move back onto Pierre-Edouard Bellemare’s line with Chris VandeVelde, replacing Dale Weise, who is scratched again.
Weise has no points in his last five games.
“Luby has been a good fit with that line and it’s done a good job,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. “No negatives toward Dale. It’s Luby’s opportunity to go in there.”