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Penguins start Western Canada swing in Calgary

by John Kreiser

PENGUINS (28-18-1) at FLAMES (26-14-6)

Last 10 -- Pittsburgh 3-7-0; Calgary 6-3-1

Season series -- The Penguins and Flames are meeting for the only time this season and just the fourth time since play resumed after the work stoppage in 2005. Pittsburgh won the lone meeting last season, 2-0 at home on March 25.

Big story -- Sidney Crosby's second trip to Western Canada is even bigger news than his first visit in December 2007. This time, of course, he arrives as the captain of the defending Stanley Cup champions.

"I look forward to playing in great hockey atmospheres, for sure," he said Tuesday at a media scrum. "As a hockey player you look forward to those games.

Team Scope:

Penguins -- Crosby is having a terrific season with 29 goals, but the Penguins' power play isn't. Despite the presence of Crosby, defending scoring champ Evgeni Malkin and talented support players such as Bill Guerin and Sergei Gonchar, the Pens are 29th in the 30-team League with a 14.3 percent success rate.

"It's definitely frustrating. There are times where that's the difference between winning and losing," Crosby said after Monday's 4-3 loss at Minnesota. "I think the last 10 games or so our power play has done a good job of getting quality zone time. We just have to put the puck in the net."

Flames -- The Flames continue to get solid goaltending from Miikka Kiprusoff, but the offense still hasn't come around. Calgary took a 2-0 lead at home against Colorado on Monday, but couldn't get the third goal, allowed the Avs to tie the game and lost 3-2 in a shootout.

"You have to stay focused and believe the offense will come for us, and a big part of that is getting the power play going," coach Brent Sutter told the Flames' Web site. "We're at the bottom third of the league on the power play and that's not good enough."

Who's hot -- Crosby has 5 goals in his last three games and scored twice in Minnesota. With 29 goals this season, he's on pace fort the first 50-goal season of his career. … Rene Bourque has scored in three consecutive games for Calgary.

Injury report -- Forward Chris Kunitz (abdominal surgery) will be out for at least a month for the Pens. … Veteran forward Craig Conroy is ready to return to the Flames' lineup after missing five games due to a foot injury. To make room, forward Jamie Lundmark was sent back to Abbotsford of the AHL.

Stat pack -- Neither team is doing much on the power play. The Penguins were 0-for-7 in Monday's loss at Minnesota. Calgary is 0 for 14 in its last five games and 3 for 35 (8.6 percent) in its last 11. … Kiprusoff is 2-1-1 with a 1.73 GAA in four starts against the Penguins.

Puck drop -- The pre-game atmosphere at the Pengrowth Saddledome figures to be festive, but the game will be intense, with both teams desperate for a win. The Penguins have to turn things around or risk being left in New Jersey's dust in the Atlantic Division, while the Flames are in a hot three-way battle with Vancouver and Colorado in the Northwest.

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