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Flames, Penguins look to ignite playoff hopes

Feb 27, 2024; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Pittsburgh Penguins forward Rickard Rakell (67) and forward Sidney Crosby (87) celebrate Rakell   s second goal of the game against the Vancouver Canucks in the second period at Rogers Arena. Mandatory Credit: Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

It will be a clash of clubs still with shaky playoff hopes when the Calgary Flames play host to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night.

The Penguins are in an even bigger ditch, coming off a 2-0 loss to the Seattle Kraken on Thursday night that snapped Pittsburgh’s three-game winning streak.

It was a tough result for a squad whose playoff hopes are fading fast, sitting seven points behind the Philadelphia Flyers for third place in the Metropolitan Division and eight points behind the Tampa Bay Lightning for the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card position.

The loss stung even more after the Penguins outshot the Kraken 18-8 in an outstanding first period but were in a 1-0 deficit after 20 minutes.

“It’s not a good feeling to feel like you do a lot of good things, especially in the first there. … To come out of that period down, that was tough,” Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. “But we had a lot of game left. Couldn’t find a way to get that one in to get us started.”

The Penguins need to get started in Calgary, which is the third game of a four-game road trip.

“We could have done a better job getting pucks through,” Penguins forward Marcus Pettersson said. “I think their ‘D’ stepped in front of a lot of shots. It felt like we could find some different avenues from the blue line a little bit better. I don’t think we got in his grill enough, and we didn’t get enough pucks there.

“We fought hard. We felt like we were desperate … but we need the points, so it’s for sure disappointing.”

The Flames, despite having won eight of 11 games and riding a four-game winning streak thanks to a solid 4-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings in their last outing, sit seven points back of the Western Conference’s two wild-card spots.

Whether the Flames can continue to push remains to be seen. This is the first game since trading away stalwart defensive defenseman Chris Tanev, a pending unrestricted free agent, to the Dallas Stars on Wednesday. This season, Calgary has already traded away a pair of pending unrestricted free agents — defenseman Nikita Zadorov and center Elias Lindholm — and is expected to deal defenseman Noah Hanifin before the March 8 trade deadline.

“We’re playing some inspiring hockey to each other,” Flames center Nazem Kadri said. “You go out there, one line after another continues to build momentum. … You want to go out there and you don’t want to let anyone down, so you make sure to bring your A-game. With how it’s structured, we roll lines and put everyone out there and I think everyone can make a steady contribution.”

Prior to the start of the game, the Flames will retire the number of goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff, the franchise record holder with 305 victories, which will elevate the emotion in the Saddledome.

“When you talk about the Calgary Flames you hear about Lanny (McDonald), Jarome (Iginla) and Kipper, those are the names people often talk about so everyone is very familiar with what he did for this team,” coach Ryan Huska said. “There was a lot of talk of how he had the ability to put the team on his back and win the game on his own, so people know all about him.”

–Field Level Media

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