By: Jim Meinecke
The Penguins are coming off a nice win over the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday night. They pretty much dominated play with possession, offensive chances, and a league-leading seventh shutout from Marc-Andre Fleury. To be honest though, that is what the Penguins should have done to the West’s worst team without one of their best players in Taylor Hall, and without another quality player in Benoit Pouliot. More important than wins is what the Pittsburgh Penguins do in the next game. They have alternated losses and wins since January 21 against the Blackhawks. The team needs to start stringing together some wins and playing more consistently night-to-night.
This will be the second and final meeting between the Penguins and Flames this season. The Penguins won at Consol 3-1 on December 12. The Penguins are 4-4-2 in their last ten games, but are 8-2-1 against the West so far this season. The team will look to win back-to-back contests for the first time since January 13. The Penguins welcomed back Evgeni Malkin in their game against the Oilers after a brief stint on the injury list. He scored his team-leading 20th goal of the season, and looks to provide an immediate boost to a Penguins’ team that has scored more than 2 goals only twice in their last ten games. In all, they have dropped to eleventh in the league at 2.8 goals per game. Marc-Andre Fleury will also look for back-to-back shutouts for the second time this season. He did it earlier this year on October 30 and November 1 against the Kings and the Sabres. Despite their recent struggles and up-and-down play, the Penguins are only one point out of the lead for the Metropolitan Division. With that being said, the first and fourth teams in the division are only separated by three points.
The Flames have been better than most people expected they would be at the beginning of the season. They are tied for second in the Pacific Division at 61 points with San Jose, trailing only Anaheim. That being said, they are 11 points behind Anaheim and need every point they can muster as they look to earn a playoff spot for the first time since the 2008-09 season. They are 8-2-0 in their last ten games, and have actually scored more goals than the Penguins so far this season. While everyone is looking at Kris Letang for the Norris trophy, the Penguins will match up against the only defenseman who has more points than Kris Letang (40 points) in Mark Giordano (43 points). The Penguins will likely go up against Jonas Hiller, who has had a pretty up-and-down season. However, he is 4-1 in his last five games with a .940 save percentage. This will be something to keep an eye on, particularly with the Penguins having trouble putting pucks in the back of the net recently.
The Penguins will look to Fleury to have another solid game like he did in Edmonton while Calgary will look to Hiller to continue his hot streak. It will be interesting to see how the Penguins come out in this one. They are going up against a team who has been streaking recently and looking for their fourth straight win. Can they finally string two quality games together? Only time will tell, but the Flames will certainly provide a good test for them. Puck drop is at 9 PM EST on ROOT Sports.