Flames vs Predators preview: Fine Finns

CALGARY, CANADA - DECEMBER 10:Miikka Kiprusoff #34 of the Calgary Flames takes a bow after shutting out the Edmonton Oilers 3 - 0 in NHL action against the Edmonton Oilers on December 10 , 2011 at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Mike Ridewood/Getty Images)

Tonight's battle at Bridgestone between the Nashville Predators and Calgary Flames may well feature another "pitchers' duel", as the pride of Finland mans each team's net. In two previous meetings this season (both in Calgary), countrymen Pekka Rinne and Miikka Kiprusoff have each completed a shutout, so which one will seize the upper hand in this rivalry tonight?

Follow after the jump for the breakdown...

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Tale Of The Tape

Calgary (14-13-2) at Nashville (14-11-4)
CGY Offense vs. NSH Defense NSH Offense vs. CGY Defense
GF/60 SF/60 Shoot % GA/60 SA/60 Save %
CGY Offense 2.5 (12th) 29.0 (18th) 8.5 (12th) 2.5 (16th) 29.1 (12th) 915 (16th) CGY Defense
NSH Defense 2.4 (12th) 30.8 (23rd) 922 (12th) 2.2 (22nd) 25.2 (29th) 8.6 (9th) NSH Offense
GA/60 SA/60 Save % GF/60 SF/60 Shoot %
Special Teams
GF/60 SF/60 Shoot % GA/60 SA/60 Save %
CGY 5-on-4 5.4 (20th) 42.1 (26th) 12.9 (12th) 5.6 (13th) 50.6 (16th) 890 (14th) CGY 4-on-5
NSH 4-on-5 5.7 (14th) 52.3 (21st) 891 (13th) 7.0 (4th) 52.6 (11th) 13.2 (8th) NSH 5-on-4
GA/60 SA/60 Save % GF/60 SF/60 Shoot %

The Flames have hovered around the league's midpoint in most of the main measures here, with the lone exception being a sub-par power play. The Predators are starting to get the Shots Against situation under control (in 3 out of the last 7 games they've kept opponents under 20 totals shots), so there's hope that the 5-on-5 situation is improving. Right now, however, the big strength for Nashville is on the power play (I can't believe I just wrote that).

Calgary Flames

The Flames have surged of late (6-1-1 since November 27) after an early-season malaise which proved fertile ground for another bumper crop of Jarome Iginla trade rumors. While those were quashed pretty thoroughly by team management, what does remain is the lingering uncertainty over the long-term direction of the team. Is this a group which can be tweaked and motivated towards a deep playoff run, or do they need to tear things down and start rebuilding?

Yes, Iginla is still a force to be reckoned with, but his best days are also behind him, and the same could be said of Calgary's #1 goaltender:

Miikka Kiprusoff

#34 / Goalie / Calgary Flames



Oct 26, 1976

2011 - Miikka Kiprusoff 25 1427 14 9 1 57 2.40 679 622 .916 2

Kipper boasts a 15-10-2 career record against the Preds, which includes 3 shutouts. As the elder statesman of Finnish NHL goaltending, he plays Obi-Wan Kenobi to Pekka Rinne's Luke Skywalker (or, given his height, Darth Vader?).

Calgary Flames Last 5 Games

Edmonton Sat 12/10 W 3 - 0
Colorado Thu 12/08 W 3 - 2
Carolina Tue 12/06 W 7 - 6
@ Vancouver Sun 12/04 L 1 - 5
@ Edmonton Sat 12/03 W 5 - 3

Nashville Predators

The vibe around Smashville is pretty positive at the moment, following the storybook comeback at Columbus followed by a thorough, 60-minute effort against Anaheim Saturday night. The stakes get raised this week, however, as the competition is taking a step up from the 29th and 30th-ranked teams in the NHL.

With Jonathon Blum dispatched to Milwaukee, I'll be very interested to see how the second power play unit looks. Yesterday at practice, Sergei Kostitsyn manned one of the points opposite Roman Josi, which could prove to be an interesting option there.

All eyes will mostly be on Jordin Tootoo, however, given his triumphant return from a 2-game suspension Saturday night. Once again, he has stirred optimism that he can become a key contributor and give Nashville some real punch on the 3rd line. With 4 goals and 4 assists in his last 8 games, can Tootoo keep it going?

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