Morning Skate Report: Flames vs. Penguins

Notes pertaining to the Flames-Pens battle at 11:00 AM MST

Saturday, 21.12.2013 / 8:46 AM
Torie Peterson  - CalgaryFlames.com (@toriepeterson)

400TH GAME FOR RUSSELL

Defenceman Kris Russell will suit up for his 400th NHL game this afternoon - a milestone the rearguard wasn't fully aware of.

"It is?" he smiled. "That's cool ... I knew I was getting close to 400 but I don't really look at that.

"The more games you play in this league, it means you're doing something right."

In his past 399 games, the 26-year-old has scored 27 goals and 11 points. He has played 35 games in a Flames jersey, being acquired in the off-season from the St. Louis Blues, and has four goals and 16 points to his name this year.

RAMO BACK IN NET

Head coach Bob Hartley has named Karri Ramo the starter for today's contest. The 27-year-old netminder is coming off a 35-save performance in the Flames 3-2 OT loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday.

"I felt he was very strong," Hartley noted. "He gave us a chance to win. He was sharp. He was square. I feel that he deserves another start."

Reto Berra played in one game this week and was strong in his 31-save effort against the Boston Bruins on Tuesday. Ladislav Smid made note of how confident he and the rest of the team are in their goaltending tandem.

"I was pleasantly surprised when I joined the Flames, how well both guys have playing," he told CalgaryFlames.com. "It's great to see. They push each other. They both have been rock solid."

TAKING ON THE PENS

Like the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday, the Flames are facing a banged-up team in the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Listed in the Penguins sick bay in the Pittsburgh game notes: Beau Bennett (wrist/hand), Andrew Ebbett (broken ankle), Tanner Glass (broken hand), Kris Letang (upper body), Evgeni Malkin (lower body), Paul Martin (broken tibia), Jayson Megna (lower body), Brooks Orpik (concussion), and Rob Scurderi (broken ankle).

Those injuries haven't hampered their offensive prowess, however. Since Nov. 18, the Penguins have scored 59 goals in 17 games - second best in the NHL, trailing the Chicago Blackhawks. They are the top team in the Eastern Conference with 53 points on the year and their captain Sidney Crosby is riding a nine-game point streak.

Defending against such a high-octane offensive group will require a lot of focus from all five skaters on the ice and the forwards will have be very steady in the neutral and defensive zones.

"When we have a lot of success, I think we really do a good job of backchecking as a group of forwards and we really shrink the attacking area," Lee Stempniak said. "If we can come back, we'll really tighten the gap for their skilled players who want to cut back and really use the width of the ice.

"If we can generate back pressure, we'll really push their forwards into our defenceman and allow them to step [in] earlier and kill plays, near the blueline as opposed to in our end."

MILESTONES WITHIN REACH

Kris Russell needs 1 game for 400.

TJ Galiardi needs 7 points for 100.

BROADCAST INFO

Today's game will be aired on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960 The FAN at 11:00 AM MST.

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