Here we are again. Last time yours truly previewed a matchup, the Nashville Predators were back on home ice following a road loss to Chicago.
They won that game over the Avalanche in dominant fashion, 4-1.
We could see a similar result tonight against a Calgary team who recently went 0-2 on a homestand and now hit the road for games against the Preds and St. Louis.
A win tonight will improve Nashville’s home record to 4-0 this season. Let’s do this.
The Calgary Flames
In the offseason, Calgary locked up a few pieces to multi-year deals, including Michael Stone, Micheal Ferland and Curtis Lazar. Stone and Ferland, in particular, have stunk it up to begin the season – each with one point apiece and a combined plus minus rating of -7.
The Flames also acquired defenseman Travis Hamonic from the Islanders, further building their sturdy defensive core. He, along with captain Mark Giordano, Dougie Hamilton and T.J. Brodie, make for one of the top units in the league. Somewhere behind the Preds, of course.
In net, the Flames have undergone a complete transition. Gone are Brian Elliot and Chad Johnson and in comes Mike Smith and Eddie Lack. Lack has lacked playing time this season (I’ll show myself out) with one appearance, while Smith has been solid (2.58 GAA, .927 SV%). By comparison, Elliot and Johnson each had a GAA below 2.60 and a .910 SV% last year, so you can argue the Flames took a step backward in the goalie department.
Johnny Gaudreau remains the man in Calgary, leading the team with 11 points. Five of those have come on the power play alongside Ferland, Sean Monahan, Kris Versteeg, and Brodie – a group which has totaled seven points together on the man advantage.
After scoring two goals in last season’s playoff series vs. Anaheim, the Flames expected 21-year-old Sam Bennett to make an impact in 2017-18. However, he has been held without a point thus far is stuck on the third line.
Other notables: Troy Brouwer is really living up to his $4.5 million-dollar contract (not). He’s got two assists and is playing on the fourth line, but has seen time on the first power play unit. If the Preds are smart, they’ll try and get Brouwer to take faceoffs where he is 1-for-12 this season. A name to watch is Matthew Tkachuk, Calgary’s 2016 first round pick who is coming off a 48-point rookie season.
Pekka Rinne should return in goal for the Predators where he has gone 4-1-1 on the season and has saved 111 of his last 115 shots faced. Only four goaltenders have a better GAA than Rinne – Michal Neuvirth, Corey Crawford and Jonathan Quick. Enjoy elite Pekka, folks.
We’ll likely see the same forward pairings, unless Peter Laviolette has an urge to replace Miikka Salomaki, who was on the ice for two of New York’s goals, Saturday, with an also struggling Pontus Aberg.
Defensively, could we see the return of Sam Girard? I sure hope so. If we do get Girard, it will be interesting to see how the Preds have the defensive pairings. Girard has only played alongside Mattias Ekholm, while Roman Josi has been linked with Ekholm since returning to injury.
Three goals in 10 minutes? Filip Forsberg was a magician last season against the Flames.
Reasons to Watch
- Arvi hustle. Seriously, just watch Viktor Arvidsson skate on both ends. Along with his energy on offense, his defensive efforts have been outstanding.
- A bounce-back performance by P.K. Subban. Subban had a rough afternoon in New York with a -2, and you know he’ll be motivated to overcome that.
- Scott Hartnell is due for a goal. The veteran has been dangerous in front of the net since moving back to Nashville, but hasn’t scored since Oct. 10 against Philly.
Willy Daunic will anchor the broadcast on Fox Sports Tennessee, likely joined by the returning Chris Mason. Although another night of Terry Crisp one-liners wouldn’t be so bad, either. Pete Weber and the boys at 102.5 The Game will carry the audio.