As they continue a six game homestand, the Calgary Flames get to work early with an afternoon affair against the Nashville Predators (2 pm, Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960). After a 3-2 overtime loss on Thursday, the Flames have points in both games to open the home stint and take on a Preds team coming off two really poor performances, falling to the Oilers and the Canucks.
The Flames did some good things on Thursday night, as I liked their play at times defensively at even strenght. New York didn’t generate much of anything 5-on-5 while Calgary did a good job gaining the zone and keeping possession offensively, but also had trouble turning zone time into chances. In the end, one scoring chance on five straight powerplays hurt them and a goal in the expiring seconds of overtime meant they’d only come away with one point.
Because of the afternoon start, neither team will do a pregame skate, so there’s no real word on the Flames lineup. Calgary practiced on Friday afternoon and did a lot of work on their special teams, focusing a lot on their powerplay setup under pressure. The team didn’t roll line rushes, but I can’t imagine a ton of changes from what they went with against the Rangers.
Alex Tanguay-David Moss-Jarome Iginla
Curtis Glencross-Olli Jokinen-Lee Stempniak
Niklas Hagman-Brendan Morrison-Rene Bourque
Tom Kostopoulos-Matt Stajan-Tim Jackman
Jay Bouwmeester-Chris Butler
Mark Giordano-Scott Hannan
Cory Sarich-Derek Smith
A certain canine commenter gave me some flack for my selection of Jarome Iginla for the Red Warrior on Thursday night. It wasn’t so much me underlining how good he was, it was more pointing out he was the most effective player on his line. I don’t put as much responsibility for a couple of the goals against he was on for as others do, and he was a big part of both of Calgary’s first period markers. The top line still isn’t clicking the way they need to, however, but I felt Iginla had his best game yet.
We’re not sure who exactly is going to play on the third defence pairing, but Smith certainly hasn’t done anything to play himself out of the lineup. Sarich had a rough night against New York, so if the team really wanted to get Babchuk back in, Sarich would be the more logical choice.
After Henrik Karlsson played well in a losing effort Thursday, Miikka Kiprusoff is back in between the pipes tonight.
Yeah, I know that every year the Preds make a lot out of not much and find a way into the playoffs, but I just don’t see how that can happen this year. They are missing a few important pieces which makes things even more dire right now, with Mike Fisher (shoulder), Martin Erat (upper body), Cal O’Reilly (undisclosed) and Francis Bouillon (concussion) all unable to play for this game today. But even with that foursome healthy, this is a Nashville team lacking a lot.
Colin Wilson-David Legwand-Matt Halischuk
Sergei Kostitsyn-Nick Spaling-Craig Smith
Jordin Tootoo-Jerred Smithson-Brian McGrattan
Patric Hornqvist-Blake Geoffrion-Niclas Bergfors
Ryan Suter-Shea Weber
Jonathon Blum-Kevin Klein
Mattias Ekholm-Teemu Laasko
Maybe I’m being overly critical of the Predators, because they’ve made chicken salad out of that other stuff plenty of times before. Maybe when they’re healthy and have their full compliment of players in the lineup, I’ll have a little more faith in Barry Trotz’s crew. There are some quality forwards, as I like Legwand’s tough minutes ability while Wilson and Bergfors have been decent in the past.
One thing they do have is a high end top defence pairing, with Suter and Weber forming one of the top duos in the league. What’s interesting is whether or not we’ll see them stay together going forward or whether one or both of them will be gone when their contracts expire. Weber escaped a suspension for a hit he leveled on Vancouver’s Jannik Hansen on Thursday night, instead being hit with a $2500 suspension.
Pekka Rinne looks to get the start in net for the Preds. If he doesn’t, Anders Lindback continues to be Nashville’s backup.
I do believe Calgary is a team built better than Nashville, but that doesn’t mean much if the Flames don’t do something about it. If Calgary can be more effective on the powerplay and do a similar job at even strength as they did on Thursday, they probably come away with a win.