NHL Hockey

Flames visit Penguins, look to end skid

The Calgary Flames and Pittsburgh Penguins, who meet Saturday at PPG Paints Arena, each have 25 games left in the regular season and are feeling some pressure.

The Penguins, who have won two in a row following a four-game losing streak, are hardly assured of making the playoffs but are making that their focus.

"It doesn't matter what's going on all season; the most important (thing) is the playoffs," Pittsburgh center Evgeni Malkin said. "If we make the playoffs, it's like new life, a new challenge for us. We have a great team. We understand it's a tough league, but we try to win every game. We look to the playoffs. We look forward to being in the playoffs and show (our) best game in the playoffs."

Malkin has missed six of the past seven games, five because of a neck injury and Wednesday's 3-1 win against Edmonton because of a suspension for a high stick. He also has struggled with confidence most of the season, despite his 56 points in 51 games.

"It's not easy this year, but I'm trying to do my best," Malkin said. "In practice, (I work) so hard every day, work a little bit extra on the ice with stick handling, with skating. I feel OK right now. I feel like my confidence (will) come back to me and I'll do my best to help the team to win."

Justin Schultz, one of Pittsburgh's top two-way defensemen, has been practicing full tilt, and was activated Friday. He has been out since Oct. 13 because of a broken leg.

Coach Mike Sullivan said Friday that Schultz would be a game-time decision.

"It's up to me. When I feel I'm ready to play, I'll be in," Schultz said.

Penguins No. 1 goaltender Matt Murray has stopped 88 of 90 shots in during this week's two wins.

Sullivan said Murray's confidence "carries over to the group in front of him. He's got a calming effect with the way he plays the position. He's very positionally sound -- it's an economy of motion. ... That's when Matt is at his very best, and he's certainly been very good the past couple of games."

Calgary is where the Penguins were last weekend - sitting on four straight losses. The Flames also have lost five of six and have fallen into a tie with San Jose atop the Pacific Division.

"Better effort," Flames coach Bill Peters said of his club's latest setback, a 3-2 shootout loss Thursday at Florida. "Fine line right now, this time of year.

"We've got another level that we can get to. I don't think we're all dialed in, 100 percent committed to doing it right each and every shift, so there's room to grow here."

But there has also been growing concern, which led to shuffled lines for the game against the Panthers coming off a 6-3 loss at Tampa Bay on Tuesday.

Sam Bennett moved up to the second line with Matthew Tkachuk and Mikael Backlund.

"I don't know if it's a reward or just trying to mix things up a little bit," Bennett told the Calgary Sun. "Either way, it's a good opportunity any chance you get to play with them."

Winger Michal Frolik was moved to the fourth line with Derek Ryan and Garnet Hathaway.

"We played better, for sure," defenseman Rasmus Andersson said of Thursday's game. "It gets tighter and tighter with each game that goes by. ... It was a step in the right direction."

--Field Level Media

Updated February 15, 2019

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