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As Coleman shines on milestone night, Flames hope he can help Huberdeau return to form


PHILADELPHIA – We’ll refrain from calling him the hero, as the revamped Calgary Flames haven’t counted on many of those this year.

But on a night several lads combined to give the Flames their fourth win in five outings, it was Blake Coleman who marked his 400th NHL game with a three-point effort.

Yes, the kid from Plano, Texas.

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“It shows our game has really grown, right?” beamed Flames assistant coach, Kirk Muller, who played the final four seasons of his NHL career in the Lone Star State.

“You’ve got Texans playing 400 games in the NHL, it’s pretty special.

“When I played in Dallas, you saw the rinks being built and the kids playing hockey there, and he’s an example of those kids that have come up now and made the NHL.

“Not only for a few games, but to play 400 games is quite an honour. He had a heck of a game to finish that 400 games.”

A pair of working man’s assists in the first period lifted the Flames to a 2-0 lead over a struggling Flyers club they’d eventually finish off in the third with two empty netters.

Coleman’s was one of them, which is good news on a lot of fronts for the man who complained to no one just two games earlier when he returned to play his former club in Tampa while toiling on the fourth line.

Not that his contributions are generally measured in goals and assists, but a promotion to the third unit alongside Mikael Backlund and Jonathan Huberdeau has now netted him four points in two games, including snipes in consecutive spins.

“I heard a joke that I made it there before 31,” smiled the 30-year-old winger, whose club handed the Flyers their seventh-straight loss.

“It’s not the traditional path to get to 400, but I’m extremely proud to get to play that many games in this league. It’s the best league in the world.

“To be rewarded with a good night and obviously most importantly, two wins on the road, is nice.”

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The Flames, who had yet to win consecutive road tests this season, have won two of the first three on this season-high six-game trek, including Monday’s 5-2 win over the Flyers and Saturday’s Florida reunion of sorts.

It was Coleman who’s dogged determination to clear his own zone that sprang Jonathan Huberdeau on a 2-on-1 that the Flames newbie buried with a wrister far side as Coleman acted as a decoy.

Few things are more pressing in Calgary than helping Huberdeau return to the form that saw him finish second in league scoring last year, and perhaps Coleman can provide that spark.

“A 2-on-1, I think I haven’t had too many this year, so it’s nice to get one and I kind of tried to keep it simple,” smiled the playmaker, whose third comes two days after scoring a big confidence booster in Saturday’s shootout.

“I don’t think I’ve ever shot on a 2-on-1. Colesy was open, too, but it was nice to score that one.

“It’s been good playing with these guys. And I think Colesy, 400 games, that’s pretty cool. And to cap it off like this is awesome. He works really hard, so that was great, three points.”

Huberdeau’s goal in the opening five minutes was followed eight minutes later by a similar finish by Dillon Dube, who looked off Nikita Zadorov on a 2-on-1 he too finished perfectly for his second of the year.

“When he’s skating and he’s hunting pucks, he’s at his best and that line was good tonight,” said Muller of Dube, who skated alongside Nazem Kadri and Andrew Mangiapane.

“Doobs is skating really well and when he had that opportunity to capitalize with his shot, he took advantage of it. That’s a perfect game for him to keep building on. He’s a kid that is a momentum-type player and that’s something to build on tonight.”

Fresh off of being Saturday’s shootout hero, Rasmus Andersson put the Flames up 3-1 in the second with a point blast that went in off of Joel Farabee’s stick, setting up a third period in which the Flames are the lowest-scoring team in the league.

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The Flyers narrowed the gap to 3-2 on an egregious giveaway by Andrew Mangiapane with 12 minutes remaining, setting the table for a few key Jacob Markstrom saves before Coleman and Lewis found the empty net in the final two minutes.

“We knew there was going to be a pushback at some point and they scored, but we stuck with it and I think we finished it off – that’s all that matters,” said Huberdeau.

“We battled. It’s another good win for us. Now we’ve got two in a row on the road. It feels good on the road trip, but now we’ve got to keep it rolling.”
Next stop, is Pittsburgh, where it sure seems logical Darryl Sutter will keep the lines together in an effort to continue building chemistry.

“Backs has probably been our most consistent forward since Day 1 this year – he has that two-way type play that stabilizes the line and gives (Huberdeau) a chance to create some offence,” explained Muller.

“And Coles, he’s a chaser. That’s his game – he’s at his best when he hunts pucks. When you get playmaking, the combination of working together, chemistry – they’re veteran guys – it makes for a good line.”

For the third time in five NHL games with the Flames this season, Dennis Gilbert gamely dropped the mitts, getting the best of Zack MacEwen less than a minute before Dube’s goal.

The 26-year-old defenceman is hellbent on doing everything he can to stay in the lineup, which will be tough as Michael Stone started skating with the team again Monday, making him a likely starter Wednesday against the Penguins.

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