‘It’s nice to play with really smart players’

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It’s a small sample size, to be sure.

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But after moving Yegor Sharangovich up and down the lineup in the opening weeks of the season, there have been encouraging signs that he might have found his place.

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Playing on the right next to Nazem Kadri and with Connor Zary on the left, Sharangovich has been in and around the net for the past two games.

He scored his second goal of the season in Saturday night’s badly-needed 6-3 win over the Seattle Kraken, while firing four shots on net.

He had three shots a couple of nights earlier against the Dallas Stars. In his previous nine games with the Flames, he’d registered more than two shots only once.

So yes, there’s been a pretty clear improvement. It would appear that playing alongside a spirited rookie in Zary, and a seasoned veteran in Kadri, is bringing out the best in a player the Flames could really use.

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“It’s nice to play with really smart players,” Sharangovich said last week after the Stars game. “Naz, he’s always recommending plays in the d-zone or offensive zone. He’s always talking on the bench and helping me and Zary. Zary’s playing well, too. Good player, skilled player, fast player.

“We just need to keep going and finding chances to score and then put them in more.”

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As the centrepiece of the return that the Flames received from the New Jersey Devils in exchange for Tyler Toffoli, Sharangovich was something of a curiosity throughout the summer.

Flames fans knew he’d scored 24 goals and added 22 assists in 2021-2022 for the Devils, but could also see that his numbers had dipped to 13 goals and 17 assists last season.

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So what, exactly, were the Flames getting in exchange for their top goal-scorer last year?

Training camp didn’t really help anyone figure that out. Neither did the early days of the regular season.

Sharangovich spent time on the first line and he spent time on the fourth line. He’s already emerged as an important player on the penalty-killing unit, but head coach Ryan Huska has talked about giving him time to find his offensive game.

Two games next to Kadri and Zary isn’t enough to tell us for sure that he’s figured it all out, but the early returns are certainly encouraging. The line definitely looks like it could work.

Zary has looked completely at home in his first two NHL games. He scored in his debut and then added an assist on Noah Hanifin’s goal against the Kraken.

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Connor Zary, Jake Oettinger
Calgary Flames forward Connor Zary celebrates after scoring his first NHL goal, against Dallas Stars goaltender Jake Oettinger at Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary on Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2023. Photo by Darren Makowichuk /Postmedia

There’s been a spotlight on Kadri since the start of the year, but three of his five points for the season have come in the last two games — though one of those did come on the power-play, when he wasn’t with Zary and Sharangovich.

And Kadri’s influence on Sharangovich shouldn’t be overlooked. The young Belarussian was open about how much it meant to be able to lean on his veteran linemate.

“I like him because he’s always helping,” Sharangovich said. “You can ask him how to do better in this area or somewhere else, and he’ll always help.”

Will the Zary-Kadri-Sharangovich line last all season? Who knows? But for a team that’s been searching for answers, it’s certainly encouraging that it’s working so far.


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The NHL announced Sunday morning that Andrew Mangiapane had a hearing with the NHL Department of Player Safety scheduled for later in the day.

The Flames winger is facing discipline for cross-checking against Kraken forward Jared McCann early in the first period of Saturday night’s game.

Mangiapane was ejected from the game.


X: @DannyAustin_9

Wes Gilbertson and Danny Austin have been covering the Flames for years and know what makes the team tick. Have questions? They have the answers – or the contacts to track them down. Send your questions to calgaryflames@postmedia.com

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