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Calgary Flames vs. Nashville Predators: Flamin’ Hot Hockey

One of the best teams in the last month, the Calgary Flames arrive in a battle of similarly situated playoff hopefuls.

NHL: Calgary Flames at Nashville Predators Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The Nashville Predators continue their home stand as the Calgary Flames visit Bridgestone Arena tonight. The Flames, one of the best teams in this latter half of the season, were below the Predators in the standings the last time these two teams met. Now they have 86 points to Nashville’s 83.

The Predators have been playing well as of late, but that hasn’t necessarily manifested in wins. After playing well over a grueling slate of road games against teams like Montreal, Chicago, San Jose, and Washington, the Predators dropped a game to Carolina before rebounding at home on Tuesday, picking up a dominant 3-1 victory over the Arizona Coyotes. Hopefully the success from their first home victory continues tonight.

The Calgary Flames

After tossing an elbow into the face of Los Angeles defenseman Drew Doughty, the Flames will be without rookie Matthew Tkachuk. With 48 points on the season, he has become an integral part of the Flame’s offense. In the first of his two-game suspension, the Flames lost to the Capitals 4-2.

Nevertheless, the Flames have a plethora of other players who can all step up and put the puck in the net. While they do not have a point-per-game superstar on their team, Johnny Gaudreau is pretty darn close with 53 points in 63 games. Mikael Backlund and Sean Monahan are also dangerous in their own rights. Finally, defenseman Dougie Hamilton has finally developed like everyone predicted he would. He is the highest scoring Flames defenseman with 11 goals and 47 points.

The biggest change for the Calgary Flames this latter half of the season has been the play of goaltender Brian Elliott. The former Blue has been the solution to the recent history of goaltending woes faced by the Flames. After posting a 2.87 GAA over his first 22 games, he now has a 2.50 GAA. While his stats aren’t that remarkable due to that slow start to the season, he has become a consistently good but not great goaltender for the Flames. That’s all they have needed to power their way up the standings in the Pacific Division and leave Los Angeles far in the rear-view mirror.

The Nashville Predators

Against the Arizona Coyotes Monday night, the Predators managed to play a full sixty minutes of great hockey. The lone Coyote goal came in the final minutes of the third period on the power play and it didn’t feel as if the Coyotes had the opportunity to claw their way back into the game.

Pekka Rinne has quietly played two excellent games in a row, first against Washington and then against Arizona. While Rinne has come under fire for some of the pucks that have gotten past him this season, there have been far too many breakdowns in defensive coverage that have made his job difficult. Seeing two strong performances in a row is hopefully a sign that Rinne is getting back into his groove that made him the Predators’ best player last postseason.

The status of Mike Fisher is in question for tonight’s game. He did not practice yesterday, with Colton Sissons instead centering the Predators’ second line. The fourth line was accordingly Cody McLeod, Vernon Fiddler, and Austin Watson.

Finally, Craig Smith manage to string together two assists after being a healthy scratch. Nevertheless, he still blew a breakaway opportunity against Mike Smith, failing to score with a shot from the slot. Smith has not been able to buy a goal since the first month of the season and his inability to score on breakaways is becoming an alarming concern. However, he at least managed to play a big part in the Predators’ offense with his two assists Monday. Hopefully it gives him a little more confidence going forward.

Reasons to Watch

  • This is a battle of the two Western Conference Wild Card teams. To say that this is not a big game would be a mistake.
  • With another goal on Monday, Viktor Arvidsson continues his push to 30 goals on the season. The more Swedes with 30+ goals, the better.
  • Building off of that point, the JOFA line has continued to dominate. I’m still somewhat in shock that the Predators actually have one of the best first lines in the league, but if it is a dream, don’t wake me up.

Gameday Hockey Lingo Word of the Day

Duster, noun.

Definition: A player who doesn’t get much playing time, hence “collecting dust” on the bench.

Example: “Make sure to brush off before you drop the mitts you duster!”

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.