The Predators will visit the Calgary Flames tonight after their first day off on this Western Canada roadtrip. Thursday night was the Juuse Saros performance we’ve all been waiting for. The Oilers doubled-up the Preds in shots (46-23), but Saros pitched a shutout and, in the process, set the franchise record for most saves in a shutout.
While we’re all pretty pleased that Saros churned out such a performance, the rest of the team...well...not so much.
The offense was flat-out dominated the whole night; only one player recorded a positive Corsi For value - Filip Forsberg. Despite the small explosion of offense in the second period, Thursday night was not friendly to this Nashville Predators team.
But, hey... these games happen. The team came away with two points, and, better yet, a solid win for Saros. Regardless, there’s still much to prove. Saros has strung together two nice wins lately, but there is no need to get complacent about his recent success.
The team is at the top of the Western Conference with one less game played than the Blues, but both them, the Jets, and the Kings are keeping pace.
Tonight is a good chance for victory against a middle-of-the-road Flames team.
The Calgary Flames
The Flames are holding down the 10th seed in the West right now with a record of 16-13-3; they’ve gone 4-4-2 in their last ten games.
In their last time out on Thursday, they lost 3-2 to the San Jose Sharks.
Their roster is fairly healthy right now - Kris Versteeg and Jaromir Jagr are the two notable injuries. Johnny Gaudreau is playing dominant hockey right now scoring 39 points in 32 games - good for third in the league.
The Triple-M line of Matthew Tkachuk, Mikael Backlund, and Michael Frolik continues to play great, underrated hockey. Tkachuck is the interesting story here. He’s a talented player who is putting together a nice season, but he has already been suspended twice this year for spearing and inciting a line brawl. If things get out of hand tonight, it’s likely he’ll be at the center of it.
Mike Smith will be the presumed starter for the Flames tonight. He’s posted a respectable 2.62 GAA and .918 SV% this season giving the Flames newfound stability in net.
The Flames are an interesting team. They’re getting average results in the standings but are dominating in possession and expected goals-for. This should be a curious matchup.
The Nashville Predators
As mentioned above, the Predators 44 points have put them at the top of the conference and second only to Tampa Bay league-wide. The team is 7-1-2 in their last 10 games.
It’s always stressed how important these Western Canada swings are, but the Preds have few dates at home in the coming weeks. These games are a good opportunity to inflate their record away from home and create more separation in the standings before Ryan Ellis returns from injury.
The forward lineup is fully healthy and has clicked well. Scott Hartnell and Ryan Johansen have picked up where they left off and the Smith-Turris-Fiala line is still rolling. I don’t anticipate any changes.
Pekka Rinne is the presumed starter. He’s gone 17-4-3 this season with an impressive 2.43 GAA and .927 SV%.
Reasons to Watch
- Games against the Flames always seem to be fun to me. I don’t know if there is a particular reason; they just do.
- For you scoreboard watchers: St. Louis and Winnipeg are facing off against each other. A Preds win and a Jets win will give the Preds a bump in the standings.
- Johnny Hockey is ridiculous.
- Maybe P.K. will score from center ice again.
Two memories stand out for me here. First, Eric Nystrom’s four goal game in 2014. Remarkably, the Preds lost this game 5-4 in a shootout. Yes, that was Victor Bartley with the secondary assist on the third goal.
Second, Filip Forsberg’s second period hat trick last season. All three goals were beauties and all three came in a ten-minute span.
Sights and Sounds
The radio call goes to 102.5 The Game. Willy Daunic brings us the broadcast on Fox Sports Tennessee. Puck drop is 9:00 pm CT.