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Johnny Gaudreau set to return to Calgary as member of Jackets

Jan 21, 2023; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets left wing Johnny Gaudreau (13) controls the puck against the San Jose Sharks during the third period at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

Johnny Gaudreau’s eight full seasons with the Calgary Flames included countless ovations in the Saddledome.

When Gaudreau and the rest of the Columbus Blue Jackets hit the ice on Monday against the host Flames, there will likely be some cheers to welcome him, but Gaudreau will definitely also receive some jeers.

And he knows it.

“We all understand. Sports is awesome. It brings people together, and I … had some great memories,” Gaudreau said. “Now, probably, they’re a little upset that I’m not there anymore. So I get it.”

Gaudreau, who led the Flames with 115 points (40 goals, 75 assists) last season and sits fifth on the team’s all-time points list, left via free agency and signed a seven-year, $68.25 million contract with the Blue Jackets.

The fact he departed for the Blue Jackets is only one reason why Flames supporters were left with a sour taste. It was the perception he was optimistic of re-signing with Calgary, then spurned the Flames at the last second despite reportedly being offered a larger contract.

Flames fans reacted with derision toward Matthew Tkachuk, who forced a trade over the summer, in his return earlier this season, but they welcomed Sean Monahan with open arms. Gaudreau will likely receive both responses.

“I’m just excited to go back there and play in the ‘Dome again,” he said. “It’ll be a lot of fun, but whether we’re in first place or last place, it doesn’t really matter. It’s going to be special night.”

Gaudreau scored his team’s first goal Saturday as the Blue Jackets erased a 2-0 deficit midway through the second period en route to a 5-3 victory over the San Jose Sharks that snapped a three-game losing skid.

The Flames are well aware that Monday night will center on their former teammate, but the trip down memory lane must be secondary to the club that is just outside a playoff spot.

Calgary, which lost a 3-1 game to the Blue Jackets last month in Columbus, will be looking to build off Saturday’s impressive 6-3 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning.

“Right from the start, I thought we were really good,” forward Dillon Dube said. “Every shift, we didn’t take too many off, and we played the right way. There was a lot of compete from the guys today. We were really prepared to play and prepared to win. It was a really good job by our group.”

The Flames dominated the first period only to see a 1-0 lead turn into a 2-1 deficit in quick fashion just past the game’s midway point. Calgary recovered, killing six Lightning man advantages — no small feat against a team that boasts the league’s No. 2 power play — and outshooting the Lightning by a 41-24 margin to record a well-deserved victory.

The heat was on the Flames, who were guilty of slow starts in a pair of losses leading up to the Lightning visit.

“We bounced back quick today, and I think we responded really well after their second goal, obviously,” said defenseman Rasmus Andersson, who collected one goal and two assists. “I’m proud of the guys. We bounced back quick and once we got the lead, we played really well.”

–Field Level Media