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PENS-FLAMES, 1:00 PM Eastern, Consol Energy Center

It’s going to be 60 degrees Saturday afternoon when the puck drops at CONSOL. December 21 represents the shortest day of the calendar year — we’ll get more daylight every day after Saturday. It will be interesting to see how the ice holds up. It’s notoriously chippy in good conditions, but the current weather is down right Winter Classic-y, circa 2010 at Heinz Field.

The Penguins aren’t expected to get anyone back against Calgary. Evgeni Malkin will miss his third game of the week. Tanner Glass is getting close, as you’ll read shortly, but the Pens will feature another Wilkes-Barre group versus the Flames.

One nice offshoot of the injuries is that coach Dan Bylsma might become more receptive to playing young players. That they’re having so much success could motivate Bylsma to recall a player he might not otherwise bring up.

Today, we have coach Bylsma’s rough notes from his Friday media conference. After that, we’ve posted some Pens-Flames numbers which predictably skew in the Pens’ favor. Perhaps most notably, Pittsburgh should be able to beat Calgary in the faceoff circle and possess the puck. That goes a long ways toward determining play. Keep an eye on Sean Monahan. He’s Calgary’s best young player.

The Pens have a chance to make it 12 wins in their last 13 games, pretty remarkable, injuries or no injuries. Enjoy!

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Pens coach Dan Bylsma’s media briefing

Rob Scuderi, Tanner Glass skated with the team today. Tanner is progressing back to play a little bit quicker than Rob is, maybe a game or two difference. They’re both progressing, obviously we have Calgary tomorrow and then Ottawa before the break. I really don’t have a definitive answer if we’ll have either of them back before the break.

Evgeni Malkin skated today. It was the third time he skated. It was on his own. He will not be available for the game. The Ottawa game would be the only game he would be available before the break. He continues to skate. We’ll see on him going forward.

Brooks Orpik passed his baseline test and protocol. Progressed to being on the ice with his team for the first time today.

The trust level with their being prepared, how to play and execute, it’s been 100 percent. Coach Hynes at Wilkes-Barre. There are players that are more prepared than some of the ones we have here (already in Pittsburgh).

They’ve done it, Zack Sill is a great example. His penalty killing has been a huge part of our success in the last four or five games. He’s close to a leader on that group with Craig Adams and Pascal Dupuis and Brandon Sutter.

I don’t think we get focused on Paul Martin not being on the ice and Kris Letang and Rob Scuderi. We haven’t sounded any fire alarms with our top four defensemen out or Evgeni Malkin. Guys have stepped in. We’ve seen Brian Gibbons score a game-winning goal, Jayson Megna with a big goal in Carolina.

The probability of us winning six games in a row might not be a high probability but the guys are steppin’ in the lineup. They’ve been able to go out there and do it well.

I watched it live, watched it last night on replay and watched it this morning on replay and it even got better. I think the play getting the puck off the wall on the rim around the dasher and getting it to his backhand, it’s a hard play just to get it off the dasher, let alone in the same motion pass it right out in front. That one I’m not sure I appreciated it until several times before how great it was. It was in the back of the net before I realized how great a play it was.

Players can be reassigned before the 23rd than I had to ask Jason Botterill about the “legalize” (in regards to sending players to Wilkes-Barre during freeze).

We’ve had good first periods, haven’t always produced goals but have dictated. Recently we’ve turned that into goals. It’s a huge burst. We didn’t score a goal against Philadelphia and it was almost like a reverse effect. We came out barnstormed, got the goal, it was a no-goal call and we kinda felt the energy come away from our team. We’ve been able to have opportunities. You’re looking up at the clock 50 seconds into the game and you can see the effect you already have on the other team.

We got the start two games at home from Sutter, Vitale, they get that goal, first shift and they’re begging for the start in New York. Jacque (Martin) said, “I don’t care who scores, I just want a goal in the first minute.”

We got a goal in the first minute. He (Jacque) wanted to start a different line. We started Jussi’s line and Sid’s line gets over the board and scores in the first minute. You look up there and it’s 1-0 on the scoreboard and I think that’s been big for our team.

Player Interviews

Sidney Crosby

Chris Kunitz

Brooks Orpik

Tanner Glass

Rob Scuderi

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Pens-Flames: By the Numbers

Record

Pens:

26-10-1 (overall), 16-3 (home), plus-37 goal differential

Flames:

13-16-6 (overall), 7-9-3 (road), minus-23 goal differential

Pittsburgh has the best goal differential in the East and second-best in hockey behind St. Louis (plus-38). After 37 games last year, the Pens were 28-9 – which included a franchise-best 15 game winning streak for the entire month of March.

Calgary has the fifth-worst goal differential in the NHL and ranks 13th out of 14 Western Conference squads in the standings.

Goals Scored

Pens: 3.08 goals per game (for) – 2.16 goals per game (against)

Flames: 2.46 goals per game (for) – 3.11 goals per game (against)

The Penguins are one of just six teams averaging three goals or more. The Flames are the 10th lowest scoring team.

5-on-5 Play
Pens: 1.18
Flames: 0.77

Pittsburgh’s 5-on-5 goals for/against ratio is better than the 1.00 average, while Calgary’s predictably falls below average.

Power Play
Pens: 26.2 percent (home), 16-for-61. Third-best in the league.
Flames: 11.4 percent (road), 8-for-70. Sixth-worst overall.

Penalty Kill
Pens: 91.8 percent (home), 45-of-49
Flames: 76.1 percent (road), 54-of-71

Hits-Blocks-Missed Shots-Giveaways-Takeaways
Pens: 509H-307B-199MS-120G-89T (19 home games)
Flames: 423H-356B-212MS-109G-109T (19 road games)

Pittsburgh has the third-fewest takeaways at home, but that might be because it usually possesses the puck. Calgary is the only team with exactly the same number of road giveaways and road takeaways.

Faceoffs
Pens: 51.6 percent (1129W-1061L)
Flames: 45.1 percent (955W-1162L)

The Pens rank ninth in faceoffs, while the Flames are dead last. At the beginning of the year, we heard about hybrid icing increasing the number of draws per game, but that talk has quietly gone away.
Sidney Crosby has taken 120 more faceoffs than the next closest player (Antoine Vermette) – 898 to 778, respectively. Crosby wins at 54.1 clip at home, but only 51.2 percent overall. That’s well below his numbers from the last couple years.

Brandon Sutter takes the second-most draws for Pittsburgh, but is struggling with a 49.4 win rate (270W-277L).

Evgeni Malkin (51.9 percent) actually has better numbers (152W-141L) than Crosby or Sutter. Who’d a thunk that?

Joe Vitale has the best numbers, chipping in with a 61.5 win rate (160W-100L).

The Flames don’t have one player over 50 percent in the faceoff circle. Matt Stajan has taken the most draws, going 243L-261L for a 48.2 win rate.

Youngsters Sean Monahan (44.2) and Joe Colborne (46.3) are still finding their ways in the circle.

Click here for a link to team Corsi and Fenwick numbers.

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Courtesy of a red-hot start, Jiri Hudler leads Calgary with 30 points (9G, 21A) in 35 games. He’s one of the few forwards with a positive plus-minus rating (plus-1).

Mike Cammalleri has 10 goals and 17 points in 27 games. He missed the first month with an injury. Cammalleri is likely to be moved around the trade deadline. Would he be a fit for the Penguins?

Monahan is a promising rookie. He missed just two weeks with a broken foot. By far, Monahan will be the most interesting Calgary player to watch Saturday.

Forward David Jones has six goals and 12 points in 30 games. Some Pens fans were clamoring for him when he was with Colorado last year, but he hasn’t done much, especially for a supposed goal scorer.

Former Lightning tender, Kari Ramo (6-5-3), has put up the best numbers in goal. He’s got a 2.70 GAA and .908 save percentage. Reto Berra (4-8-2) came out of nowhere about a month ago and went on a little roll. He’s got a 3.10 GAA and .899 save percentage. Joey McDonald (3-3-1, 3.17 GAA, .885 save percentage) rounds out the competition.

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Treasure Life!
JT
@JohnToperzer
@PiratesTalk

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