PITTSBURGH, PA -- Win or lose, the Calgary Flames have their eyes looking one direction -- forward.
With a third consecutive loss coming against the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday, the Flames are focused on moving forward versus the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday before Sunday’s tilt with the Chicago Blackhawks.
"There’s still lots of hockey to be played,” Flames coach Bob Hartley said. “There’s no sense panicking, there’s no sense going crazy. We don’t like it but did we know or we think that it would happen? You have to guard against this. It’s very fragile.
“We’re in it right now and we’re playing probably, in the next three nights, two of the best hockey clubs in the League. We’ll have lots of good tests. I know that our guys will respond to it.”
There’s no panic from the coach.
There isn’t any in the dressing room, either.
“As a group, we’ve got to let that go and move past that,” centre Sean Monahan said. “Try and focus on today. I think that’s what we’re going to be doing here today.
“We’ve made some mistakes and those are the ones that can fixed. I think we’re still strong in the dressing room and we’re a positive group. We’re going to get past that and I think tonight is going to be a different outcome.”
The outcomes haven’t been favourable for the Flames lately.
Calgary outshot the San Jose Sharks 35-30 on Saturday but fell 3-2. They dropped a 4-1 contest to the Toronto Maple Leafs -- two by way of an empty net -- despite holding a shot advantage of 33-29. Thursday’s 4-3 loss in Buffalo came despite holding a 45-19 edge on the shot clock.
Matt Stajan feels the team could’ve just as easily walked away with three wins.
“It’s not like we played terrible these last three games,” said Stajan, who is expected to return to the lineup after sitting as a healthy scratch against the Sabres. “We could have won every game. You could say we played better in all three of those games then we did in some of the games we’ve won. It’s about staying even-keel and coming out with a good effort, keeping our confidence.
“Hockey has a funny way of working and we’ve got to make sure, and we will, that we’re doing the things we need to do to give ourselves a chance to win.”
PREPPING FOR PITTSBURGH
The Flames are aware of the challenge that lies in Pittsburgh. The Penguins sit atop the Metropolitan Division with an 18-6-3 record.
They’re getting healthier, too. Sidney Crosby confirmed to suit up against Calgary and coach Mike Johnson expecting him to be joined by Patric Hornqvist and Kris Letang.
The plan is simple for Hartley's Flames.
“It’s all about making sure we don’t let them penetrate our zone,” Hartley said. “Once they get in our zone, that’s where they’re at their best. (Evgeni) Malkin, Crosby, they have so many great weapons. They have a good supporting cast also. I think that we need to play tonight’s game in their zone. That’s going to be the best place for us. That’s where we’re going to be able to control the game.”
The message has been relayed from the coach on down to the players.
“Obviously those guys are some of the top talents that we play against but you try to minimize their time and space,” Stajan said. “It’s not the first time we’re playing against top guys in the league. We play in one of probably the toughest divisions in the league. It will be a test for us. We’ve got to limit their speed and go play hockey. Play our game.
“It’s going to take all five guys who are on the ice against them to stop them. That’s our way of going, when we play defence anyway.”
The Penguins will welcome back a familiar face Friday. Deryk Engelland will face his former teammates since signing a three-year contract with the Flames this summer. He appeared in 243 regular season and 13 playoff games for Pittsburgh.
Engelland, who has only played for the two NHL franchises, expects a unique experience in being back.
“It will be a lot different,” Engelland said. “Usually it’s one or two guys on the other team that you played with – not three quarters of the team. To come in and play against them all, it will be a little different. It should be a lot of fun.
“I’m sure it will be a little more anxious once we get to the rink. I’m looking forward to it. I had a lot of good years here so to go back and play against them should be a lot of fun.”
The Flames face off with the Penguins at 5 PM MT. SNET-Flames (TV) and SN 960 The FAN (radio) will carry the broadcast.
@NHLFlames will live-tweet the game and provide you will all sorts of game day content. Fans can also follow along with the hashtag #CGYvsPIT.