Brady, a 21-year-old forward with the Ottawa Senators, and Matthew, a 23-year-old forward with the Calgary Flames, have played against each other before in the NHL before, but nothing like what will happen when their teams are scheduled to meet five times in 11 days, beginning at Ottawa on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; TSN5, RDS2, SNW, NHL.TV).
“It’s going to be great,” Brady Tkachuk said. “It’s going to be so much fun. I always love playing against him and I’d bet he’d say the same. We’re both really looking forward to it.”
The game Thursday is the first of three straight at Ottawa; they also play Saturday and Monday. The Senators and Flames also play in Calgary on March 4 and 7.
Each brother is on a roll heading into Thursday.
Matthew has scored four points (one goal, three assists) in his past three games, including an assist in Calgary’s 2-1 overtime loss at the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday.
Brady scored two goals and had seven hits in the Senators’ 5-4 overtime victory against the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday, giving him seven points (five goals, two assists) in his past six games. Though he damaged a couple of teeth in the game, a visit to the dentist Wednesday was not going to dampen his appetite for stepping onto the ice against his brother.
“Spending all that time together during the pandemic and then not seeing him for a little bit, it’s going to be great to see him,” Brady said. “And I think it’s going to be great for our family to see both of us.”
Because of restrictions crossing the United States-Canada border brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, the NHL realigned its divisions this season. The Scotia North Division consists of the seven NHL teams based in Canada, with each team playing each other 9-10 times. The Senators face the Flames nine times; they play twice more at Ottawa on March 22 and 24 and twice more at Calgary on April 19 and 20.
The Flames (9-9-2) are in fifth place in the North Division, two points behind the Montreal Canadiens. The Senators (6-14-1) are seven points behind the Flames.
“I know times have been tough this year for their team but he’s done a great job of leading them,” Matthew said of Brady. “I think we all see the way he plays, the way he carries himself, I mean, he’s the epitome of a leader and a teammate. Just an all-around great guy and great player, and I’m just happy to see the notoriety he’s getting because he deserves it.”
In the past, because they played in different conferences and divisions, Ottawa and Calgary would play twice a season.
Brady (two goals, one assist) and Matthew (one goal, two assists) each has scored three points in four previous NHL games against each other, the most memorable being their first matchup on Feb. 24, 2019.
It was a bittersweet night for Brady. He scored his 14th goal of the season, but the Senators were defeated 2-1.
Matthew thought he’d scored too, but a first-period goal was taken off the board after Ottawa won a challenge for goalie interference.
Watching from a pair of private boxes at Canadian Tire Centre were 50 family and friends including father Keith and mother Chantal. Most were wearing special white jerseys with the word “Calgary” on one side of the front, “Ottawa” on the other. On the back of each one were the words “Tkachuk Brothers.”
“It was great, having a lot of my family and friends from Boston, as well as having Chantal’s family from Canada,” Keith Tkachuk said. “So it was pretty cool. My father-in-law made those jerseys for everybody. To see them playing against each other for the first time in the NHL was an unreal experience.”
Not to mention nerve-wracking.
Keith Tkachuk had an illustrious 18-season career in the NHL, scoring 1,065 points (538 goals, 527 assists) in 1,201 games for the Winnipeg Jets, Phoenix Coyotes, St. Louis Blues and Atlanta Thrashers from 1991-2010. He said watching the boys play that first game was far more stressful than any game he played in.
Count on that being the case again this time around when he and Chantal sit in front of the TV in their St. Louis-area family home and watch the brothers face each other five times in a span of 11 days.
“It’ll be fun,” Keith said. “But you don’t realize they’re going to play so many times until you actually saw the schedule when it came out.
“It’s a little different and it’s fun, but it’s also hard. You’re enjoying the fact that they’re both playing but when they’re playing against each other, it’s tough. You want them to both succeed. That’s why we want all of those games to go to overtime.”
Keith said the boys are aware of the rule their parents implemented for that first meeting two years ago: No fighting against each other.
As Matthew said, “Anybody who thinks we’re going to fight is an idiot.”
That doesn’t mean they won’t be their usual feisty selves, however.
“I assume there are going to be a lot of guys in the Ottawa Senators dressing room who aren’t going to like Matthew,” Keith said, “and vice versa in the Calgary room about Brady, if they’re doing what they’re supposed to do. So if there’s not enough hatred when you play a team four times in a row or five out of six times, it’s time to make changes.”
No matter how the games go or how the brothers perform, there will certainly be some level of stress when Keith and Chantal settle in to watch.
“I’m sure it includes a couple of drinks to try to help with that,” Matthew said.