The Nashville Predators continue a week of home games tonight as the Calgary Flames come to town, riding a four-game winning streak. Led up front by Jarome Iginla, who has torched the Preds for 3 goals and 2 assists in their two previous meetings this season, the Flames represent a big test for a Nashville team which has flirted with a Top 4 position in the Western Conference.
Follow after the jump for a breakdown of tonight's matchup...
Meet the Enemy
At 24-12-5, Calgary is in the thick of a 3-team battle for the Northwest Division title with Colorado and Vancouver. For a good read on the state of the team, check out Matchsticks and Gasoline's mid-season review, which highlights the ascension of Rene Bourque, celebrates the work of Jay Bouwmeester, and muses about possible trade deadline acquisitions.
The Flames have been a consistently solid team all year long, only losing 3 games in a row once. The last time they came to Nashville, Calgary trounced the Preds 5-0, playing something close to a perfect road game. Can the Preds knock them back on their heels tonight?
Meet the Good Guys
At 9-3-1 in their last 13, the Preds have reversed their own 3-game losing streak by beating St. Louis, Columbus and Anaheim in succession heading into this evening. With a lineup that's still short of a few regular members (Martin Erat, Jerred Smithson, Jordin Tootoo) Nashville has continued to score at a decent clip while playing more of a Predators-style game, making safe plays at the blueline, working the puck around the perimeter, and sending wingers to the goal crease to work tips & rebounds.
According to Pete Weber this morning on the radio, the lines we might see tonight from Nashville could be as follows:
Even Strength Play
|5-on-5 data from Behind the Net|
|TEAM||GP||GF||GA||GF/60||SF/60||Sht %||GA/60||SA/60||Save Pct.||+/- per 60|
The Flames have been an excellent team in 5-on-5 all season long,
Calgary PP vs. Nashville PK
The Flames may boast an average power play (16th at 18.1%), but that's still dangerous to a Nashville team with a 29th-ranked penalty kill (76.3%). Fortunately for the Preds, Calgary doesn't draw many calls (3rd-fewest PP's in the league), so hopefully the damage can be minimized here.
Nashville PP vs. Calgary PK
When they do score on the power play, Nashville is 15-1-1; the problem is they just don't connect enough with the man advantage (14.9%, 28th). Calgary boasts an excellent penalty kill (84.5%, 7th), so it will be another uphill fight for the Preds tonight.
Miikka Kiprusoff has had an outstanding season thus far, and besides getting named to Team Finland for the Olympics, has been incredibly hot lately:
#34 / Goalie / Calgary Flames
Oct 26, 1976
|2009 - Miikka Kiprusoff||36||2116||21||10||76||2.16||1056||980||.928||3|
For the Preds, the rotation continues as Dan Ellis gets the start in goal. In his last outing, he had a strong road game, beating Columbus 2-1 in overtime:
#39 / Goalie / Nashville Predators
Jun 19, 1980
|2009 - Dan Ellis||19||1010||9||7||47||2.79||510||463||.908||0|
The Predators avenged that 5-0 home loss recently when they won 5-3 in Calgary, so they're certainly capable of going toe-to-toe with one of the heavyweights in the Western Conference. With the Flames beginning a four-games-in-five-days stretch, starting Calgary off with a rough game tonight could help the Preds not just in this game, but down the road as well.
There's no local TV tonight (those of you with Center Ice might be able to pick up the Calgary feed), so make sure you're in the building!
For discounted tickets for Tuesday against the Calgary Flames, or any Nashville Predators home game, you can follow this link and use the special offer code "PREDS".