The Nashville Predators continue their northwestern road trip tonight, facing off against the Calgary Flames in what could be less of a lopsided matchup than Tuesday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers. The Flames have had a bumpy start to the year after some significant roster changes, but their fifth-in-the-Pacific record is still a 5-3-0, and they enter tonight coming off a pair of one-goal losses to divisional rivals.
The Nashville Predators
I’m not sure we have 81 games of “the Preds didn’t look so good last game, so hopefully they look better tonight” in us as a crew—so hopefully they actually do look better tonight.
The Preds played a disheartening and bad game in Edmonton. Juuse Saros struggled to make the saves he was asked to make, but the team also suffered significant defensive breakdowns in front of him. The offense was lackluster, the penalties were bad, and Filip Forsberg and newcomer Nino Niederreiter looked like the only ones still really trying by the end of the game.
Kiefer Sherwood, who took three penalties in Tuesday’s game, was put on waivers yesterday. Whether or not he gets claimed, he won’t be skating for the Preds tonight; who will be is a more interesting question. Some of the high-ceiling young talent in Milwaukee, like Phil Tomasino or Jusso Pärssinen, might get a look, but he could also be replaced by a grit guy. (Nick has some more discussion of the roster options in his announcement of the waiving, if you’re curious.)
Forsberg leads the team in points with 10, with Matt Duchene right behind him with 9. Mikael Granlund hasn’t been having a great season, but he’s still racking up the assists, so we can expect to see him getting some big ice time again tonight. Niederreiter and Ryan Johansen have been scoring goals; maybe we’ll get to see more of them.
The Calgary Flames
The Flames made some big changes to their roster this offseason.
They traded Matthew Tkachuk for Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar. Johnny Gaudreau walked in free agency, ultimately signing with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Nazem Kadri, fresh off a Cup win, opted to sign with them—after the Flames traded Sean Monahan, once a keystone of their team before a series of gruesome injuries, for future considerations in order to clear the cap space to sign Kadri.
That Kadri signing has worked out for them so far. Kadri leads the team in goals (5), points (10), and individual expected goals (4.13, in all situations). Tyler Toffoli has also been a key offensive contributor, following Kadri as second in all three categories, but by a sizable margin in points and ixG.
Huberdeau has been more of a disappointment to the Flames. While he’s helped them generate lots of quality scoring chances, he hasn’t taken that many shots of his own and he mostly hasn’t been scoring on the ones he’s taken. The top line the Flames initially assembled—featuring Huberdeau, Toffoli, and Elias Lindholm—has gotten pretty much nothing for their genuinely good work so far this season, and Flames Head Coach Darryl Sutter has gotten out the line blender as a result.
Honestly, Huberdeau is too good a player to be kept quiet for this long, especially if he starts seeing more icetime with Kadri, who has also been excellent and who’s just been rewarded more for it. This is an offense waiting to ignite.
Defensively, the Flames have been pretty good, but they have struggled in goal at even strength (their penalty kill is very effective). Jacob Markström has posted a 4-1-0 record on the back of a .903 sv%, which isn’t great, and backup Daniel Vladar is 1-2-0 with a .865 sv%. Sadly, there’s no reason to suppose the Preds will see Vladar tonight, as the Flames played Tuesday and won’t play again until Saturday.
How to Watch
The game airs at 8 PM Central on Bally Sports South and 102.5 The Game. I’ll be recapping, if you’d like to join me in this late-night adventure.