(Charles LeClaire / USA Today Sports)
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The great lyricist Meat Loaf once declared that “two outta there ain’t bad.” The Calgary Flames split the first two games of their three game Eastern Conference road trip with a win over New Jersey and a tight loss to the New York Rangers. Tonight, they polish off both their trip and their schedule before their mandatory four days off with a game against Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguns. A win tonight would position the Flames extremely well heading into their bye week.
The action kicks off just after 5 p.m. MT on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960 The Fan!
Lines via Daily Faceoff:
Brian Elliott lost against the Rangers (after winning in three consecutive starts) so in keeping with Glen Gulutzan’s “win and you’re in” mantra, Chad Johnson is back in tonight against the Pens. He’s 16-12-1 with a 2.50 goals against average and a .913 save percentage. Johnson’s cooled down a bit since his torrid November/December stretch, but he’s still a solid goaltender. Hopefully some time on the bench has given him a breather and he’ll be able to find his groove again.
Gulutzan’s making a couple other changes coming off a loss. Garnet Hathaway returns to the lineup after an injury, bumping Lance Bouma to the press box. And Brett Kulak slots in, bumping Jyrki Jokipakka to the sidelines. Freddie Hamilton is the other healthy scratch expected for this evening.
The Flames power play remains red-hot, with goals in seven of their past 11 games. But their penalty kill keeps letting in goals just as often, so they’re not really getting much benefit from their special teams. The Backlunds, Gaudreaus and Monahans of the world have remained strong, but the Flames will need to get some contributions from unexpected places if they’re going to grind out two points against Pittsburgh.
Lines via Daily Faceoff:
Young Matt Murray gets the start for the Penguins, who are seemingly trying to balance out the usage of both their young gun and veteran Marc-Andre Fleury. Ideally they’ll have them both fresh as daisies for the post-season. Murray has slightly better numbers than Fleury; he’s 19-6-1 with a 2.42 goals against average and a .921 save percentage. (He has more wins than Fleury and better GAA and SV%.)
There are two things of note about the Penguins. First, they’re missing a bunch of good players due to injury. Daniel Sprong and Conor Sheary were already missing, but Evgeni Malkin and Carl Hagelin will both likely miss tonight’s game as well. Second, Sidney Crosby is just three points away from hitting the 1,000 point mark. The Flames seem to always provide opportunities to hit milestones, so expect Crosby to see a ton of Mikael Backlund’s line in an effort to slow him down.
Remember when Pittsburgh won the Stanley Cup last year? That was fun.
In 102 previous regular season games between the Flames and Penguins, Calgary has a 40-43-19 record. This is the first of two meetings between these teams; they’ll play again in Calgary on March 13.
KNOW THY ENEMY
Here are some Penguins follows for tonight:
SUM IT UP
It’s a big game against a tough opponent for the Flames. But if they can grind out a pair of points, they can head into their bye week with some momentum.