CALGARY -- Rookie Johnny Gaudreau was a little disappointed he didn't get to line up against Sidney Crosby for the first time when his Calgary Flames visited the Pittsburgh Penguins in mid-December. Crosby was out of the lineup with the mumps.
Gaudreau will get that chance Friday when the Flames welcome Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the Penguins to Scotiabank Saddledome.
"Growing up, I always watched him and he's a big part of the NHL,” said Gaudreau, 21. “I'm really fortunate to be playing against him.
“He's definitely a guy he looked up to. When I was growing up I never really had posters on my wall or anything but I was still a big NHL fan and he was one of the guys I always liked watching. It's just exciting to be a part of something like this."
Crosby sits fifth in NHL scoring heading into action Friday with 53 points in 47 games. Malkin is tied for sixth overall with one less point in one fewer game.
But Flames coach Bob Hartley cautioned that Calgary can’t be too concerned with Pittsburgh’s marquee centers. In fact, he insisted his club isn’t going to roll out the red carpet for the Penguins in their only visit to Calgary this season.
"Awareness is very important but at the same time we can't get in the locker room -- Crosby and Malkin, Crosby and Malkin -- make our players pretend that the Pope is in town because we're going to get caught watching," Hartley said.
"We need to play the game. We have great respect for all those players but the game tonight is about us -- that has been our mindset since the start of the year. We've gone on road trips and played great at home. We went through an eight-game skid and never changed out mindset. We would be making a huge mistake tonight [if we changed].
"Rolling out the red carpet is not our style, it's not in our DNA. It's about us and we know who we're facing and let's drop the puck and see what's going to happen."
The Penguins are aware of the Flames too.
Calgary's third-period exploits, including an NHL-leading nine wins when trailing after two periods and a League-high 66 third period goals has earned the Flames a reputation as cardiac kids.
Pittsburgh coach Mike Johnston has urged his team to be on its toes.
"As everyone knows in the League they have great third-period stats," said Johnston, whose Penguins beat Calgary 3-1 in their only other matchup this season. "They're a hungry young team that is really developing. Bob Hartley's done a good job and the management group has done a good job of building this team.
"Everybody, when you come in to play Calgary, knows you've got to be working. You're going to have a hard game."
Here are the projected lineups:
Chris Kunitz – Sidney Crosby – David Perron
Mark Arcobello – Evgeni Malkin – Patric Hornqvist
Nick Spaling – Brandon Sutter – Steve Downie
Zach Sill – Maxim Lapierre – Craig Adams
Paul Martin – Kris Letang
Rob Scuderi – Simon Despres
Derrick Pouliot – Robert Bortuzzo
Scratched: Beau Bennett, Scott Harrington
Injured: Pascal Dupuis (blood clots), Olli Maatta (illness), Blake Comeau (wrist), Christian Ehrhoff (head)
Johnny Gaudreau – Sean Monahan – Jiri Hudler
Lance Bouma – Mikael Backlund – David Jones
Mason Raymond – Josh Jooris – Joe Colborne
Brandon Bollig – Matt Stajan – Paul Byron
Mark Giordano – TJ Brodie
Kris Russell – Dennis Wideman
Raphael Diaz – Deryk Engelland
Scratched: Corey Potter
Injured: Sam Bennett (shoulder surgery), Curtis Glencross (lower body), Ladislav Smid (upper body), David Wolf (lower body)
Status update: Fleury is expected to start against the Flames while Greiss will play Saturday against the Vancouver Canucks. … Calgary and Pittsburgh aren't anticipating any lineup changes from their previous game.
Who's hot: Letang has earned an assist on eight of the last nine Pittsburgh goals. Perron has seven goals and 10 points in 13 games since arriving via trade from the Edmonton Oilers. … Hiller is 4-1-0 with a 1.41 goals-against average and .940 save percentage in his past five starts for Calgary. Monahan has points in three straight and six goals and nine points in his past nine games.