The Nashville Predators, coming off of a big win in an explosive game against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday, return to Bridgestone Arena tonight for the first time in a week and a half.
Their guest tonight, the Calgary Flames, are also currently a wild card holder in the Western Conference. Only two points separate these two teams, meaning a regulation loss would tie the Predators and the Flames. Were the season to end today, the worse of the two teams would have to play a series against the Minnesota Wild.
Although many fans would love for the Predators to try and knock Ryan Suter out of the playoffs, the Predators sure did not look great against the Wild on Saturday, losing 5-2. Needless to say, there are big points on the line tonight in Nashville. The Predators need to come out with two of them.
The Calgary Flames
Despite only being 5-4-1 in their last 10 games, the Flames still hold a wild card spot. They have benefited from every team below them having the same or worse record in their last 10 as well. They’ve had a stretch of inconsistent play against bad teams, getting blown out 5-0 by Arizona, beating Philadelphia 3-1, and then losing against Vancouver 2-1 on Saturday. It’s one thing to be inconsistent against the best teams in the league, and it’s a whole other problem if one’s inconsistent against the worst of the league.
Rookie Matthew Tkachuk has been a welcome boost to the Flames, posting 37 points in 55 games. Were it not for Zach Werenski, Patrik Laine, and Auston Matthews, Tkachuk would be in the running for the Calder this season. Nevertheless, Tkachuk said he wants to model his game after Corey Perry, so perhaps there’s some karma that he’s not being mentioned.
Tuesday could be the debut for newly acquired defenseman Michael Stone. Picked up by the Flames via a trade with Arizona, Stone is a solid third pairing defenseman who is more valued for his character than talent. Usually defensive pairings take a while to develop chemistry, so perhaps the Predators will be able to exploit communication deficiencies when Stone is on the ice if he plays tonight.
The Nashville Predators
After a disappointing loss against the Wild on Saturday, Juuse Saros and the Predators helped put the good guys in the win column with a 4-3 victory over the Blue Jackets Sunday night. Saros stood on his head while the rest of the Predators let the Blue Jackets rifle shot after shot at him. As the game progressed, the Predators continued to improve their play.
While Craig Smith probably shouldn’t be in the shootout for a long time, Kevin Fiala was able to cash in on his breakaway and looked every bit the part of a regular NHL player. Aside from having the poise to not be shaken by an aggressive poke check by Sergei Bobrovsky on the breakaway, he skated hard up and down the ice and didn’t appear to be a defensive liability. Hopefully Fiala can finally earn a full-time roster spot, but he’ll have to string together a few more solid performances to do so.
Meanwhile, there has been more talk of the Predators’ wingers not scoring up to the usual (come on Smith, you could’ve had two goals on Sunday!). While Arvidsson is second on the team with 39 points, he is now the highest Swede in that department, not Filip Forsberg. Raise your hand if you predicted that Arvy would have more points than Filip at this point of the season (looks around), exactly, nobody.
As a firm member of #TeamStandPat, I don’t think that the Predators should be tossing more salt in the soup just for the sake of seeing what happens. The truth is that the Predators have good, proven wingers and that it’s more likely that an upgrade at center would create more production from the wings than simply adding another winger. Nevertheless, there has been some discussion on another winger being needed and, if anyone wants to make a case for their roster spot, tonight would be as good a time as any to secure their role.
Reasons to Watch
- One Finn, two Finn; big Finn, small Finn. Pekka Rinne should be starting tonight, but if Juuse Saros is given duties, he’s shown that he can put on a show himself.
- P.K. Subban has been playing extremely well with seven points in five games. Last game, the Blue Jackets stopped dumping the puck in to him altogether. Seeing one of the best defensemen in hockey while he’s on a hot streak is always a treat.
- Kevin Fiala is back in Nashville. The young speedy forward looked great on Sunday and, unfortunately, it’s tough to tell if he’ll be on the team for more home games this season, but at least you can see him tonight!
Gameday Hockey Lingo Word of the Day
Definition: Short for “beautiful”, this word is often used ironically. Typically beauts are hockey players who are balding and missing teeth.
Example: “Just look at Austin Watson smile! What a beaut!”
Sights and Sounds
The puck drops at 7:00 p.m. CST in Bridgestone Arena. If you can’t attend the game, the Predators will be televised on FS-TN or you can catch them on the radio at 102.5 The Game.