The Nashville Predators kick off the post-All Star run to the playoffs with a chance to avenge last week's 3-1 loss to the Calgary Flames. This time, however, rather than coming in after having played the night before in Edmonton, the Preds come in well-rested and looking to defend home ice.
Follow after the jump for some of the key stats here and more thoughts on tonight's matchup...
Welcome the Preds back home tonight, as they have 9 games coming up in the month of February at Bridgestone Arena, including this game against the Calgary Flames, and Saturday against the Detroit Red Wings. Save some cash and get yourself some discount Nashville Predators tickets for these, or any other home game.
First, a look at some of the main numbers for the Flames and Preds so far:
|Calgary Flames||Nashville Predators|
|5-on-5 Save %||.904||27th||.930||3rd|
|# of PP's||204||3rd||174||23rd|
|# of PK's||195||23rd||176||8th|
Scrappy penalty killing, discipline to stay out of the box, and strong goaltending have the Preds playing stingy overall defense. The Flames don't give up very many shots in 5-on-5 play, but Miikka Kiprusoff has had an off year. They also tend to draw (and commit) more penalties, so it will be interesting to watch how this game flows.
While the Preds welcomed back Jordin Tootoo and Steve Sullivan to practice yesterday, neither is ready for game action yet, so Chris Mueller and Matt Halischuk were recalled from Milwaukee. We'd expect the lines to look similar to what we saw at the end of the last road trip:
Wilson - Legwand - Hornqvist
Erat - Goc - Kostitsyn
Ward - Spaling - Smithson
Halischuk - Mueller - Dumont
Suter - Weber
O'Brien - Klein
Sulzer - Franson
In goal, of course, we'll look to see if Pekka Rinne can carry forward his strong play from January after getting a few day's rest over the weekend:
#35 / Goalie / Nashville Predators
Nov 03, 1982
|2010 - Pekka Rinne||34||1989||17||13||4||70||2.11||980||910||.929||3|
As for the Flames, they've come to life after GM Darryl Sutter was pushed out the door, riding a four-game winning streak into the All-Star break which included victories over Nashville, Vancouver, and Dallas. Winger Jarome Iginla has shrugged off a slow start to lead the team in scoring, and is producing at close to a point-per-game pace these days.
#12 / Right Wing / Calgary Flames
Jul 01, 1977
|2010 - Jarome Iginla||51||22||25||47||-9||30||6||0||4||185||11.9|
While Calgary has kindled hopes of a potential drive for the playoffs with their recent play, however, many are considering whether the franchise should head down the road which Edmonton is traveling. Should they deal off veterans in favor of loading up on draft picks, and go for a total rebuild? Here's what Hayley, the manager of Matchsticks & Gasoline (SB Nation's Calgary Flames blog), had to say:
The fact of the matter is, Jarome Iginla and other veterans are slowing down and this
team lacks both a legitimate power vs. power line as well as elite offensive talent, and
it shows in games against the better teams in the league. They can no longer compete
with the likes of Detroit and Vancouver. The Flames essentially have an opportunity to
quit while they're ahead here. Unlike teams like Washington, Pittsburgh, and Chicago
who languished at the bottom of their respective conferences under bad management for
years, the Flames have only been out of the playoffs for a season and a half. With some
interesting prospects like T.J. Brodie and Mitch Wahl coming up through the system in
the next few years, this team has some of the pieces, but not enough; a rebuild, partial or
otherwise, represents an opportunity to acquire the assets the Flames are lacking and Jay
Feaster or whomever else is in charge has to take advantage of that.
This whole issue makes the Flames a somewhat unpredictable opponent. Is the team pulling in a singular direction with the playoffs in mind? Or is it more a collection of individuals looking ahead to their next job? Could guys like Alex Tanguay be thinking that each night is basically an audition to be picked up by a playoff contender? On the other hand, you'll have young players eager to prove themselves worthy of a larger role under new GM Jay Feaster.
Here are their line combo's, per M&G:
One guy I'm going to keep an eye on tonight is Brendan Morrison. When we talk about potential acquisitions for the Nashville Predators at the trade deadline, a veteran offensive center on a cheap, expiring contract is probably their best fit, and Morrison fits that bill. He's the first NHL player I ever interviewed (although back then we were both at the University of Michigan), and brings a Hobey Baker-winning pedigree that includes solid defensive play learned under Red Berenson during his college days. If the Preds don't feel confident that Cal O'Reilly will be ready for the rigors of playoff competition this spring, Morrison would make a decent choice to lead a scoring line for the Preds and help on the power play.
#8 / Center / Calgary Flames
Aug 15, 1975
|2010 - Brendan Morrison||51||8||19||27||4||16||3||1||1||70||11.4|