FGD: Afternoon Delight

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.

The Lineup

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.

The Opponent

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.

The Story

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.

  • everton fc

    Love those Saturday afternoon games!

    Hate to say this… But this would be a game most coaches would plug PL3 in the lineup. Glad Sutter refrained. I think this gives us a huge advantage, as McGratton won’t get more than 2-3 minutes (you’d think). He’ll go after Jackman, of course… Jackman needs to stay away from that tilt.

    A line of Tootoo (always liked him – agitator who can actually play), Smithson and McGratton… A depleted roster…An ideal afternoon to poach two points.

    I like our chances here. But Rinne… Tough goalie to play against, under any circumstances…

    • jeremywilhelm

      No spot for him in Abby right now in the top 6 so Ward sent him down to get his rhythm and confidence back. If Byron is suspended today after his hit from behind i think we will see Wahl back. He has a big 2 point night for Utah in a 4-3 win. Negrin is racking up the points as well but he probably wont get a call up till another Dman gets hurt.

  • jeremywilhelm

    The Horak situation is starting to bother me. If he isn’t going to make the lineup, he shouldn’t be with the big club. Matt Stajan can play 4th line minutes by default any game, why not take this opportunity to plug Horak in and see what happens? If he can’t handle it (which I think we’d agree he can), send him back to Abbotsford. The biggest hurdle with young kids is maintaining confidence. He was on a high in training camp and for the first few games, and now you’re slowly diminishing that confidence as he sits in the press box. Meanwhile, you’re making the transition back to Abbotsford more difficult as these games roll by. I don’t understand the hesitation with this decision

    • jeremywilhelm

      I agree that he should be playing, but he wont necessarily play if he goes down to Abby. Wards lineup is set and he isnt going to change it just because Horak is sent down. Abby is playing dominant right now. He would be in the press box down there too i bet.

    • The Preds have had a lot of problems so far. They’re averaging the least amount of shots on net in the league. They’re missing a few of their offensive weapons and they lost some good players this summer. Might be a long season for NSH fans this year.

      • Yeah Kent, it’s gonna be a long season in the Music City. The only way I think they have a chance at the playoffs is if Rinne stands on his head all year. Then again that’s what it is like most years in Nashville so you never know, I just don’t see it this year.

        • ChinookArchYYC

          No kidding, I dismiss them every year & come crunch time in March/April, they seem to be in 7th/8th spot & playing incredible behind mind blowing goal tending. Get redy for a snore fest this afternoon.