(Sergei Belski – USA Today Sports)
The Calgary Flames played a smart game on Thursday night and got two points, albeit in overtime. Now the Flames are vying to do what they haven’t done yet this season: win back-to-back games.
Standing in the way of the Flames (4-9-1) are the Pittsburgh Penguins (9-4-0), fresh off a game last night up Highway 2 against the Edmonton Oilers. The Penguins boast a scary, balanced attack and feature a ton of big-name talent who have quietly began to round into form. And they won last night and probably feel like a 2-1 win over the Oilers was too close for their liking.
The puck drops just after 8pm MT on CBC (with Dave Randorf and Garry Galley) and on Sportsnet 960 The Fan (with Derek Wills and Peter Loubardias).
Projected lines via Daily Faceoff:
Karri Ramo starts for the seventh time this season. He’s 2-4-0 with a 3.80 goals against average and a sparkling .885 save percentage. He was pretty solid against the Flyers and he’ll need to be very good against the firepower of the Penguins. Your scratches tonight are Ladislav Smid and Brandon Bollig, while on injured reserve (for now) are Jonas Hiller, Micheal Ferland and Lance Bouma. Ferland skated with the main group at morning skate but wasn’t in line rushes.
Players that are “plus” (in terms of plus/minus) for the Flames this season: T.J. Brodie (+5), Johnny Gaudreau (+1) and Matt Stajan (+1). North of 50% in Score-Adjusted Corsi: Brodie (56.26%), Mason Raymond (51.79%), Brett Kulak (51.35%) and Mikael Backlund (50.43%). Gaudreau has 14 points in 14 games and has been by far Calgary’s best player, and that’s with the other teams focusing in on him. Brodie’s also been superb and really given the blueline a boost, while Sam Bennett quietly has 7 points this season (good for sixth on the team). If a few of the team’s other players could find their games, the Flames could be a good club this season. For now, they’re just hoping to be a consistent team.
Once again, keep an eye on the power-play. Sheer dumb luck suggests that the team should break out of their extra-man funk sooner or later. The Flames have just two power-play goals in their last nine games; going 2-for-24 in that span and racking up a 3-5-1 record. If they can bury some of these chances, they’ll give themselves a lot more chances to win than they are right now.
Projected lines via Daily Faceoff:
Since Jeff Zatkoff started last night, most likely Marc-Andre Fleury starts against the Flames. He’s 7-4-0 with a 1.74 goals against average and a .939 save percentage in 11 starts. So, yeah, he’s pretty good. Pascal Dupuis missed yesterday after being evaluated for potential blood clotting issues, and he won’t play tonight.
The Penguins have a high-powered offense, boasting names such as Phil Kessel, Evgeni Malkin, Chris Kunitz and some guy named Sidney Crosby. Crosby and Kunitz are off to a slow start, but Kessel leads the team in goal-scoring and has just kept on chugging along. Pittsburgh’s lines are balanced, and their biggest weakness is arguably their defense. But hey, when your goalie is racking up a .939 save percentage, you don’t need to spend a lot of time worrying about your defense.
WHEN LAST WE MET
The Flames lost both games they played with Pittsburgh in 2014-15. They lost 3-1 in Pittsburgh in mid-December, then lost 4-0 in Calgary in early February.
Tonight is the 101st meeting between the Flames and the Pittsburgh Penguins. All-time, the Flames are 38-43-18-1 all-time against the Penguins.
HOME ICE HERO
There’s a person in every rink in Canada that makes a big difference and keeps things running smoothly. Who does that in your local rink? Nominate your Home Ice Hero and they could win a prize worth $5,000. Nominate your hero!
SUM IT UP
The Penguins are a pretty stacked team offensively, but they’re still a team in the midst of a road trip and won a close game last night up in Edmonton. For a Flames team that needs to accumulate points and climb up into the standings somehow, a game against a tired, traveling, non-conference opponent is probably the best recipe the hockey gods are going to give them.