SUN Hockey Pool

Sid, Malkin to test Flames

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 1:51 PM ET

PITTSBURGH -- Containing Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg is no easy task.

Doing the same on Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby is nearly impossible.

It can be done, though, and the Calgary Flames need only to watch tape of the Pittsburgh Penguins' loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on the weekend to see how it's accomplished.

But putting a similar game plan into action on the road is going to take perfection. And perfect is hardly the word used to describe the Flames' play away from home this month.

Keeping one dynamic duo in Datsyuk and Zetterberg at bay Monday at the Saddledome sent the Flames on a two-game trip with a renewed sense of confidence. They'll need every ounce of it to prevent Malkin and Crosby from embarrassing them.

"We're very mindful of the personnel they have. They've got the two top scorers in the National Hockey League -- everyone knows who they are," Flames head coach Mike Keenan.

"It's a very high-profile team, and our players are very well aware of who they have."

That's for sure.

Even the Flames get involved in the debate over who the best player in the league might be. Two of the most talked about stars are the Penguins' dynamic duo.

"As far as I'm concerned, I think Malkin's the best player in the league, right now. I know the points are there," said Flames veteran Craig Conroy. "Everybody says it's Crosby. Malkin's a special player. I can appreciate how good he is."

Convinced as he seems that Malkin is tops -- as his league-leading 105 points would suggest -- Conroy concedes there's a good argument to be made for Crosby.

"You've got two of them on a team," Conroy said. "You know how dangerous they can be."

Relishing the opportunity to go head to head is Flames captain Jarome Iginla.

"Yeah, we do," Iginla said. "You get to see them on TV. You don't play them very often. Malkin and Crosby are two of the best players in the league, two of the most exciting.

"It'll be a good challenge for us."

We'll see tonight whether the Flames did their homework. The Flyers won 3-1 at the Igloo Sunday thanks to physical, disciplined play and timely goals.

"It was a very physical game," said Keenan, who obviously took note of the effort in the Eastern Conference battle that saw the Pens lose out on points for the first time in 13 games. "(The Pens have) been on a roll. They've built some momentum. They're in a tight race. We expect them to come out very hard."

That's the kind of start it will take from the Flames, who struggled to a 3-4 record in their season-long road trip earlier this month.

"We're going to have our work cut out for us," said Conroy. "We're going to have to go in there and be physical and not let them free-wheel on the powerplay."

Showing discipline against the Wings, who beat the Penguins in the Stanley Cup final last spring, the Flames will need to be equally dedicated to staying out of the box in Pittsburgh.

And they'll need to keep the puck away from Malkin and Crosby as much as possible.

"We're going to be up for the challenge," Keenan said. "I think that our team needs to play these tough games now to get better in the last 10 games of the season to get us ready for the playoffs."

It's going to take no less than a playoff effort to leave Pittsburgh with a victory.


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