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Gaudreau set for NHL debut as Flames visit Canucks

(SportsNetwork.com) - The Calgary Flames will take the ice on Sunday night with an eye towards the future as they visit the Vancouver Canucks.

The Flames are expected to debut forwards Bill Arnold and Johnny Gaudreau after recently signing the duo to entry-level contracts. The Boston College prospects had their season end on Thursday with a loss to Union College in the Frozen Four.

Both are former fourth-round draft picks. The 21-year-old Arnold was selected in the 2010 draft and had 53 points in 40 games this season, while the 20- year-old Gaudreau, picked a year later, notched 36 goals and 44 assists en route to capturing the Hobey Baker Memorial Award as the top U.S. college hockey player.

Gaudreau notched a 31-game point streak and tied a Hockey East conference record set by Paul Kariya with Maine in 1992-93. His 80-point season was the most by a college player since Peter Sejna's 82-point campaign with Colorado College in 2002-03.

Still, the Flames aren't expecting the two to come out of the gate flying on Sunday.

"I don't expect much," Flames general manager Brian Burke said on Calgary's website. "It's hard. They're going from one level of hockey to a completely different level of hockey. I won't be surprised if they're standing around staring at the traffic and trying to figure out how to merge. It's not unusual in a kid's first game for them to be star-struck and wait too long to do things.

"What I'm trying to do is be realistic here. These are two young men that have a good chance at being good NHL players, but they've got some work to do. They're not going to be handed anything."

Burke, though, would probably be pleased to see the two help the Flames to a season-ending victory after they had a four-game win streak snapped in Friday's home finale with a 5-3 loss to the Winnipeg Jets.

Sean Monahan and Kris Russell scored power-play goals 24 seconds apart to tie the game in the second period, but Calgary could muster no more.

"After those two power-play goals it seemed like the momentum shifted and we had a great third period," Calgary head coach Bob Hartley said. "The boys were on a mission. They wanted that win for the fans but unfortunately we couldn't get it done."

Jiri Hudler had a goal and an assist, while Karri Ramo recorded 22 saves in defeat.

Monahan, the 19-year-old sixth overall pick of the most recent draft, will cap his rookie campaign tonight having potted 22 goals on the season. That is the most by a Flames rookie since Paul Ranheim had 26 and Sergei Makarov notched 24 in 1989-90.

Calgary also will be trying to best the Canucks for the first time in seven meetings. The Flames have lost all four previous encounters this season as well as six in a row in Vancouver, where they have not won since Dec. 23, 2011.

The Canucks will try to avoid a fourth straight setback tonight after losing a 5-2 decision to the Edmonton Oilers in an emotional night at Rexall Place.

It marked the final game of Ryan Smyth's career as the Oilers forward announced his retirement on Friday. The Canucks returned to the ice after the final horn to congratulate Smyth.

Zack Kassian and Shawn Matthias each posted a goal and an assist for the Canucks, who have lost six of their previous seven. Jacob Markstrom gave up all five goals on 22 shots in the loss.

"We have too many breakdowns in front of our net," said Vancouver head coach John Tortorella. "The guys know what to do around the rest of the ice, but we just don't protect the middle and it's unacceptable."

Tortorella faces an uncertain future in Vancouver as his first season as coach of the Canucks saw the franchise miss the postseason for the first time since 2008.

Team president and general manager Mike Gillis was fired on Tuesday and former captain Trevor Linden was named the president of hockey operations the following day.

04/13 11:18:18 ET