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Preparing for Pittsburgh

by Torie Peterson / Calgary Flames



CALGARY, AB -- After Thursday's practice, Calgary Flames head coach looked noticeably anxious in his media address.

He shifted foot from foot, looking like he had somewhere else he desperately needed to be. When asked if he was ready to get started, his answer was immediate.

"You hear about it, you read about it, it's talked about. Let's play now," he chuckled. "Let's get playing."

The bench boss, along with all his like-minded pupils, will have that wish granted in a day as the Pittsburgh Penguins make their way into Calgary.

The Pens are coming off a 4-3 shootout win over the Vancouver Canucks. Matt Cooke found the back of the net twice while Evgeni Malkin notched the deciding goal in the shootout.

The victory featured a Penguins team many in the East fear: fast, aggressive and absolutely tenacious in all three zones. Their transition game is one of the best in the League and if a team allows them to control the play right off the hop, the Penguins usually come out on the winning end.

The Flames know what happens when they sit back and wait to see what the pace of the game is going to be like. They did that for the first two and a half months of the season last year and it landed them a place in the Western Conference basement with the Edmonton Oilers.

The reason for their miraculous mid-season turnaround was largely the fact they decided that instead of going along at the pace that their opposition had set, they were going to dictate just how the was played.

Defenceman Cory Sarich believes the team needs to vividly remember just how disastrous things can be become if the Flames go with the wait-and-see approach and needs to use that as a source of motivation as soon as they step onto the ice on Saturday night.

"I think we've seen and learned - especially over the course of last year - that if we wait and play the other team's speed, wait and kind read off them, it doesn't bode well for us," Sarich said. "We need to pushing the play. We need to push our game at them."

As most know by now, the Pens captain Sidney Crosby will not suit up on Saturday night. The pivot has been sidelined for over nine months after being diagnosed with a concussion in early January. The 24 year-old is traveling with the team and has been taking part in practices but there there is no definitive timeline for his return.

Despite not having number 87 in the lineup, Mark Giordano knows the team is still in the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference and cannot be treated lightly. Pittsburgh has a potent forward group that is more than capable when it comes to burying the puck and their defensive corps has a great mix of shutdown blueliners and offensive-minded rearguards.

"Crosby's, In my opinion, the best player in the world. That's a loss for them but you saw how they played without him last year. They were still one of the best teams in the league.

"They have a lot of weapons there and a lot of great players. We know it's going to be a challenge."

Follow Torie Peterson on Twitter | @ToriePeterson


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