The Nashville Predators (28-16-3) will end their brief road trip to the Canadian Northwest with an important contest with the Flames (26-15-9) in Calgary tonight.
The Predators are in fourth place and are a point ahead of Calgary in the Western Conference race. Calgary is in a virtual tie with Colorado for the Northwest Division lead but are technically in fifth due to tiebreakers.
This is the final meeting of the year between the two teams with the road team winning the previous three contests.
The games in Nashville include what was considered the Flames best game of the year on November 30th when the Flames beat the Preds 5-0. The Flames also won 3-1 last week in a game where the Preds weren't fully engaged for the first part of the game.
In the Predators previous game in Calgary on December 19, they played well in 5-3 win.
Calgary was riding a hot streak when they were in Nashville last week as that win was their fifth in a row. Since that game they have gone 1-3-1. The Preds have won three of four since the last contest with the Flames including two on the road this week in Vancouver and Edmonton.
Jerome Iginla has been a Pred killer this year with three goals and three assists, and over his entire career as he has feasted on the Predators with 26 goals and 24 assists in 39 games.
The Predators will return to the goalie rotation sending Dan Ellis (10-8-1, 2.71, .911) out against Miikka Kiprusoff (23-12-6, 2.18. .926).
Predators Keys To the Game
Avoid Calgary Having a Break-Out Game...
Despite the Flames high powered line-up led by Jerome Iginla, Rene Bourque, Daymond Langkow, and Olli Jokinen, they have not scored more than three goals in a game since a 4-1 win over Edmonton on December 28. That was the only game where they exceeded three goals since the 5-0 win in Nashville in November.
In a stat that few would believe given the Pred's reputation for lack of scoring, Nashville is now tenth in the league in goals per game (2.81) while Calgary is 19th (2.62). On the other end of the ice, the Flame's success has come from their fifth place goals allowed (2.34) versus the Preds being in 16th place (2.79).
Continued Improvement on Special Teams...
Despite going 0-1 against Edmonton on Tuesday, the Preds are 5 of 17 in their last four games on the power play which has raised them from 28th to 23rd (16.7). After going five games being perfect on the penalty kill (10 for 10), the Preds have fallen off in the last two games stopping only 4 of 7 chances on the opponent's man advantage.
Special teams have continued to be the primary opportunity for improvement as the team heads to the second half of the season. Calgary has been surprisingly anemic on the power play (24th, 16.6%) but is capable of a break out at any time.
Solve Kiprusoff Early...
Miikka Kiprusoff has played well against the Preds this year registering a shut out and a one goal game in three appearances. His stats (2-1, 1.68, .928) need to be overcome by intense pressure early as he has been prone to give up rebounds at times. Patric Hornqvist needs to establish a presence in front of the net and create as much havoc as possible.
The Preds need to score early as they have the league's second best record when leading after one period (16-1) and are third best when scoring first (.818).
The Predators will return home after the game and have Saturday off before returning to the ice at Centennial on Sunday morning to prepare for the Toronto Maple Leafs third ever visit to Music City on Monday night.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass