I can't say I was all that disappointed with the game Calgary played on Monday. When a team loses a game featuring a million saves, a seeing-eye shot and the skills competition, it's more to do with poor fortune than any other factors, and that was the case against Colorado. Tonight, the champs are passing through on a rare visit, so we not only get to see some terrific players, but a good team that's struggled on the PP more often than the Flames, hard as that may be to believe.
The reuniting of Iginla and Jokinen has, to my surprise, not sucked. They couldn't score for the life of them the last two outings, but that's not because the right things aren't mostly occurring. The captain has been very good in particular, and continuing that sort of play will pay off at some point. They'll likely have another outing with Jamie Lundmark, as his faux demotion designed to facilitate some roster juggling has ended.
That means the Dawes-Langkow-Bourque trio are back in play, and a team with Pittsburgh's quality down the middle will be a proper examination for the Flames' best players. Bourque has the hot stick at the moment with goals in three games running. BTN suggests that Jordan Staal is getting the second tier comp, so if that holds, he would be Langkow's match-up, but I wouldn't be surprised if things are changed by the Pens for tonight since they appear to be tinkering with their lines.
On the off-chance that Bylsma leaves Staal playing against the Flame top-six, Malkin would work versus the third line. That would seem to be a dangerous proposition, even with the reigning Art Ross and Conn Smythe winner in a nine game goal scoring drought. I don't know if Conroy is a go, but I'd have a bit more faith in him working with Glencross and Moss in that scenario than Boyd or Nystrom.
The blue is down a body, with Staffan Kronwall clearing waivers. The overall play of the defence has been pretty solid the last few games, with good forward support aiding matters. Cory Sarich and Adam Pardy should be a very good third pair, and they've certainly looked the part as of late. If Sutter decides at some point to use Sarich with Bouwmeester, I'd expect nothing less than excellence from Giordano in that sort of role. Darryl Sutter wanted a team with quality depth on the back end, and with all the bodies finally healthy, we might get a better idea as to whether he has the mix just right.
Miikka Kiprusoff will go again, and barring something odd, McElhinney will get another airing in California Sunday or Monday. Kipper wasn't bad against the Avs, with the Stewart goal simply being another of those ridiculous moments against Colorado. I'd suspect he'll need to be a-one this evening.
The Penguins are in the midst of a rather blah period on their part, most recently falling victim to the Guillaume Latendresse juggernaut. Aside from a win over the sad-sack Leafs, they've been on the wrong end of some high scores recently, as Marc-Andre Fleury has struggled badly this year with a .911 EV SV%. That's lousy, to be blunt, and continues an alarming EV SV% trend for the Olympian:
That doesn't make him a write-off, of course, as Miikka Kiprusoff has demonstrated this year. Maybe they should hire Noodles? As for the rest of the Pens, as mentioned, Evgeni Malkin hasn't scored since filling his hat two nights before Christmas against the Senators, going -8 in the process. He's shooting under 8% for the year. I hope it lasts at least one more night. Sidney Crosby has been excellent as usual, with a chance at 50 goals for the first time in his career. I'd like him to save a few for the last two weeks of February if he doesn't mind. On the injury front, Chris Kunitz is out for 4-6 weeks after abdominal surgery and Brooks Orpik is day-to-day with some sort of lower body ailment.
Both of these teams have been dreadful on the PP. Pittsburgh is running at a smooth 14.3%, which is good for 29th in the league, and Calgary's struggles when up a man have been well-documented around these parts. Both teams have the same positive 5 v 5 F/A ratio, and both have been able to kill penalties at an acceptable rate. Calgary's keys to any sort of success have to include getting something with the extra man and keeping the Penguins down in their own PP ditch.
Game time is 7:30 MT on TSN.