NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Saturday, December 21st
(All times Eastern)
Calgary Flames (13-16-6) at Pittsburgh Penguins (26-10-1), 1 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The red-hot Pittsburgh Penguins will try to push their
season-best winning streak to seven games when they host the Calgary Flames in
Saturday's matinee clash at CONSOL Energy Center.
Pittsburgh has won six in a row and 11 of its last 12 games to open a big lead
atop the Metropolitan Division. With 53 points, the Penguins are 12 points
ahead of Washington for the division's top spot and Pittsburgh also is five
points in front of Boston for the Eastern Conference lead.
Despite battling a rash of injuries, the Pens posted their two most recent
wins on back-to-back nights, beating the New York Rangers on the road in a 4-3
shootout on Wednesday before downing the visiting Minnesota Wild by a 5-2
score on Thursday.
The decisive victory over the Wild was the ninth straight win on home ice for
the Pens, who are off to a stellar 16-3-0 mark as the host this season.
If history is any indication, Pittsburgh has a good chance to make it 10
straight home wins this afternoon. The Pens are 12-1-0 with two ties in their
last 15 home games against the Flames, and Calgary has lost eight of 10
overall in this series.
Pittsburgh is currently dealing with injuries to star forward Evgeni Malkin
and defensemen Kris Letang, Paul Martin, Brooks Orpik and Rob Scuderi. With
their top-four blueliners out of the lineup on Thursday, rookie defenseman
Olli Maatta took charge in the win over Minnesota.
Maatta scored a key short-handed goal on a penalty shot and collected one
assist, helping the Penguins post a 5-2 decision over the Wild. A first-round
pick (22nd overall) in the 2012 draft, the 19-year-old Maatta has three goals
and eight assists in 37 games this season. The Finnish prospect has done most
of his damage recently, notching seven points (2 goals, 5 assists) over his
last 10 outings.
Maatta became only the second defenseman in Penguins history to score on a
penalty shot after he was hooked on a breakaway by Minnesota's Jonas Brodin at
7:54 of the third period. He came in wide from the right side and snapped a
wrister that trickled across the goal line to give Pittsburgh a 5-2 lead.
"I've tried that move in practice a few times. It's the only move I have,"
Maatta said. "I thought (Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom) got it at first.
Then I saw it go in so I was pretty excited."
Chris Kunitz had two goals for the Penguins, while Jeff Zatkoff made 24 saves
for the win.
Malkin is questionable for today's game, while Letang, Martin, Orpik and
Scuderi are out.
While Pittsburgh aims for its 10th straight home win on Saturday, the Flames
will try to halt a three-game road slide. Calgary began a five-game road trip
with last Saturday's overtime win in Buffalo, but Bob Hartley's club has gone
The Flames played Thursday evening in Detroit and was dealt a 3-2 overtime
loss by the Red Wings, who won after Daniel Alfredsson scored his second goal
of the game just 63 seconds into the extra session. Detroit got a power play
when Calgary defenseman TJ Brodie was whistled for hooking with 42 seconds
left in regulation. On the ensuing power play, Pavel Datsyuk fed Alfredsson
for a one-timer in the slot and the veteran ripped the shot past Karri Ramo.
Mikael Backlund and Mark Giordano both scored for Calgary. Ramo stopped 35
shots in defeat.
After closing its road trip on Saturday, Calgary will play its next five games
at the Saddledome, beginning with Monday's game against St. Louis. The Flames
are 7-9-3 as the guest this season and 6-7-3 at home.
12/21 10:53:58 ET
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