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BRING ON THE CHAMPS

Flames aim to extend win streak against Sid the Kid and Pens

by ARI YANOVER @NHLFlames / calgaryflames.com

It's all heavy hitters for the Flames as of late.

On Sunday, they took down Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals, edging them 2-1. Tonight, they'll try to do the same to Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Scotiabank Saddledome (7 p.m., TV: SNW, Radio: Sportsnet960 The FAN).

"We had, I think, arguably one of our best games of the year against Washington, and we want to keep that ball rolling and headed in the right direction," Flames goalie Mike Smith said.

Captain Mark Giordano agreed.

"We've got to try to play a lot like we did the other night," Giordano said. "We played really solid. I thought we had a lot of chances, I thought we played really well defensively, so we've got to try to carry that on against them."

The Flames are expected to dress the same lineup they did against the Caps. 

Johnny Gaudreau, who leads the Flames in scoring, knows it will be a tough test for everyone, himself included.

Gaudreau was previously matched against Ovechkin's line. Together with Sean Monahan and Micheal Ferland, his line reduced Ovechkin to just one shot at five-on-five, and only about a 20% Corsi-for, according to Natural Stat Trick.

"I think I've done some good things," Gaudreau said. "I think me, Mony, we've been playing well together; Ferly, he had a great game last game, you just gotta keep building off that.

"Obviously, they're very skilled up front, they're smart with the puck, they can make some great plays in the offensive zone, so I think from my line, personally, we've got to be smart defensively first off, and then try to do our thing like we did last time in the offensive zone. Try to stay away from the defensive zone as much as possible and make some plays and try to find the net a few times for our team."

A four-game winning streak against the Pens is on the line for the Flames, as they've swept the Stanley Cup champs the past two years. The Flames took them to shootouts twice last season.

"We played them fast last year, and they play fast," coach Glen Gulutzan said. "Specialty teams, you look at how good their powerplay's going, that's key. We gotta be good in our penalty-kill, we have to be good in our discipline. Five-on-five, we've got to keep it there as much as we can, and we know we have to play fast cause that's the way they play."

The Penguins are currently tied with the Lightning for the second best powerplay in the NHL, with a success rate of 29.6%. At five-on-five, however, they have a Corsi-for of 49.80%, while the Flames are top 10 in the NHL with 51.55%.

The Pens are also coming off of a 3-2 win over Edmonton Wednesday night. Back-to-backs have proven trouble to the Penguins so far this season, as they've been outscored 10-1, 5-4, and 7-1 after winning the night before.

"We all know that they've struggled in back-to-backs, but they're not going to struggle forever," Gulutzan cautioned. "We'd like to jump on them early, certainly, but we have ourselves to worry about."

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