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Flames ready for a speedy Rangers squad

Puck management will be key for the Flames tonight when they host the Rangers

by Torie Peterson @ToriePeterson /

CALGARY, AB -- Potent would be the best word to describe the New York Rangers' offence so the Calgary Flames will need to be on their toes this evening when the two clubs square off at the Scotiabank Saddledome (8:00 PM MT, CBC, SN1).

"A team that's done a remarkable job transforming themselves back to this speed game," was head coach Glen Gulutzan's assessment of the Blueshirts. "They've got a lot of young, good players. They've done a really good job.

"For us, our game plan … is to stay above their speed and to make sure we don't give them odd-man rushes. If they get a chance, they have the (defence) that can move it up and they have the forwards that can go. It's not secret, we'll try to be above them all night and make sure they've got to come through a few layers of us to get in."

The Rangers lead the NHL in goals scored with 58 through 14 games and that kind of production has vaulted them to the top of the Metropolitan Division with a 10-4-0 record and 20 points. They boast a balanced attack with 12 of their skaters have nine-or-more points this season.

"They've got all four lines that are scoring. You look at the so-called fourth line. At least the way we have it written down, you've got Pirri and Grabner and Fast. They've done very well. It's a speed line," Gulutzan stated. 

"It's a lot of skill throughout the whole lineup. Some good, young skill mixed in with some veteran guys there. I think they can attack you from all four areas. That's going to a key for us, we're going to have to match that."

Another key for the Flames will be staying out of the penalty box. Ill-timed infractions have cost the club and they must remain disciplined. The Rangers power play is operating at a 22.4 percent clip this season - 30 percent on the road - and they have plenty of skill to burn teams when they have the man-advantage.

"If we have the puck down in their end, (don't) take penalties in the offensive zone," Deryk Engelland emphasized. "That's got us a few times now. We've just got to keep with it, stick with, keep playing the way we have been and know that when we do make a mistake, somebody has to be there to cover it up and not give them a tap-in."

Structure, too, will play a big role in this evening's contest. Facing a team that has been averaging 4.14 goals-per-game poses a variety of challenges to opponents and the Flames know they will need to stick with their system against the Rangers.

"I think this will be one of our best tests tonight, defensively," Johnny Gaudreau explained. "They're very skilled up front. They can find the net … they're not having a problem with that right now. We've got to play well defensively and when we get our scoring chances, we have to find the net."

Tied for the team lead in scoring for the Rangers is Kevin Hayes, Gaudreau's former linemate during their days at Boston College. Along with Bill Arnold, the three were one of the most dominant lines in the NCAA during their collegiate careers.

Hayes, who is slated to play on a line with Jimmy Vesey and J.T. Miller this evening, has six goals and 13 points through 14 skates this year.

"It's always great to see him," Gaudreau said. "It's great to see how well he's doing this year. He's a good friend from college. It's awesome to see how well he's doing this year. I had dinner with him last night and told him to not do too well against us tonight but after that, he can keep playing well."

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