December 21 2013 08:46AM
A day and a half removed from a tough OT loss against the Detroit Red Wings, the Calgary Flames (13-16-6) will face-off against the star-studded Penguins of Pittsburgh (26-10-1) in an early afternoon affair.
The Penguins are Kate Upton hot right now. They have won six straight games and are 9-1-0 in their last ten games. Their recent run has catapulted them into 3rd place and they are now nipping at the heels of Chicago and Anaheim for 1st place overall. Impressively, they have positioned themselves among the league's best despite superstars James Neal, Kris Letang and Eugene Malkin all having missed significant time this season.
However, the Penguins have Sidney Crosby, the world's best player. He has been healthy all year, having played in every game this year. This is the first time Sid's been completely healthy in a while and he has been très magnifique. He is leading the league with 51 points in 37 games, boasting a 1.38 PPG.
The last time these two teams squared off was the Flames opening game of the 2011-12 season. Despite a late comeback effort, the Flames were torched by a Crosby-less Penguins team. Today's Flames are much worse offensively than they were two years ago and have downgraded in goal as well.
In the 2013-14 season, the Penguins are 3rd in both goals for and goals against. They put the puck in the net with regularity and they do not give much either. The Flames, on the other hand, are 21 and 26 in those respective categories. I think it's safe to say that Kari Ramo is going to have to stand on his face for the Flames to have a chance. However, if the Flames catch a playoff-type performance from Fleury all bets are off.
Thanks to dailyfaceoffs.com, here comes ye lines...
- Glencross - Stajan - Stempniak
- Byron - Monahan - Hudler
- Cammalleri - Backlund - D. Jones
- Bouma - Colborne - McGrattan
- Smid - Giordano
- Butler - O'Brien
- Russell - Brodie
These are the lines right now. There won't be a morning skate so we won't know until game-time which Flames player(s) Hartley will be giving the popcorn bag to. Monahan had a pretty dreadful game last game. In fact, the whole Byron - Monahan - Hudler line wasn't great. So maybe we'll see Byron or Monahan come out?
Ramo will make his second straight start. Hartley seems to be running a relatively fair approach with his goalies - If you win and/or play well, you'll suit up the next game. If you stink, you're riding pine.
- Kunitz - Crosby - Dupuis
- Zolnierczyk - Jokinen - Neal
- Conner - Sutter - Vitale
- Adams - Sill - Kobasew
- Maata - Niskanen
- Dumoulin - Bortuzzo
- Samuelsson - Despres
The Penguins regular roster is a little banged up to say the least as it looks like Malkin and Letang will be gone for this one. The Pens current line-up is an interesting mix of the league's biggest star (Crosby), some capable NHLers and a couple of President's Choice No Namers. Zolnierczyk, Sill, Dumoulin...haven't heard much of these characters. Regardless, any team with Crosby is ... well ... pretty darn good. The Flames will need to limit his chances, as best they can, to be successful.
No idea who the goalie is going to be in this one. The Flames have a real affinity for gettting back-up goalies so they'll probably end up getting this Zatkoff cat. We'll have to wait and see.
SUM IT UP
The Flames are in for a tough one this afternoon, facing off against the best player in the world and one of the best and hottest teams in the league. On the bright side, the Flames have been in every game for the last three weeks. In that time, they have won about half the games and haven't lost a game by more than one goal. The Flames had a great start against a much better Boston team on Tuesday. If the Flames can jump on the Penguins early in similar fashion to that Boston game and cash in on their early chances, unlike the Boston game, I like their chances to at least make a game of it.
Game time is 11 am MT. Grab yourself some cereal and get ready for the magic.