(Macarena kinda sounds like Pekka Rinne). After a solid 5-2 win over the Minnesota Wild on Sunday night, the Calgary Flames return home for a pair of games starting tonight against the Nashville Predators (7:30 pm, TSN and Sportsnet 960). It’s the second of four meeting between the two teams as Calgary will try to avenge what was a frustrating 2-0 loss on home ice back on October 22nd. That was an afternoon affair where the Flames really were Rinne’d.
Vezina Trophy finalist Pekka Rinne gets the start in net for the Preds after resting last night against the Edmonton Oilers as Nashville snapped a four game losing streak with a 2-1 win. Rinne was sensational on that October afternoon, making 33 saves for the shutout while posting his first ever career win against the Flames. Calgary’s game on Sunday was a solid performance, and a similar outing against a similar opponent should finish in similar positive results. Similar.
Some good news for the Flames, as neither Scott Hannan nor Alex Tanguay will miss action tonight, despite sustaining what looked to be some nasty injuries on Sunday. Both will play tonight in their regular spots, and that’s good news for the team as they hope to get on a little bit of a roll. For Tanguay, it was good to see him score on Sunday night, as the narrative surrounding his lack of shots has been one of the more frequent one as of late.
Curtis Glencross-Olli Jokinen-Jarome Iginla
Alex Tanguay-Roman Horak-Rene Bourque
Blake Comeau-Mikael Backlund-Lee Stempniak
Tom Kostopoulos-Matt Stajan-Tim Jackman
Jay Bouwmeester-Chris Butler
Mark Giordano-Scott Hannan
Derek Smith-T.J. Brodie
Nothing changes from Sunday re: lines, which is good to see, as they all carried their weight for the most part. Miikka Kiprusoff gets the start in net for the Flames.
The 10th place Predators play the second of a back-to-back set tonight, coming off their win at Rexall Place yesterday. It was another night where Nashville was severely outshot yet victorious, a common theme for this squad through the first quarter of the season. When I used the term similar to compare the Predators and Wild, I wasn’t kidding; they both allow more than 31 shots a game, and they both have red possession numbers almost across the board; it’s even moreso with the Predators in fact.
Rinne is an elite goaltender in this leauge, and whether you like his 7 year, $7 million contract or not, you can’t deny he’s been the chief reason they’ve had the success they’ve had thus far. That said, there are still some quality players on this team, even with a lack of depth overall hurting this group in the long run. Up front, they’re still getting solid contributions from the usual suspects: David Legwand, Martin Erat, Mike Fisher, and Jerred Smithson all play roles in helping this team spend a little time at the right end of the ice. They can only do so much however, as this group doesn’t sustain a lot offence at all.
Colin Wilson-David Legwand-Patric Hornqvist
Martin Erat-Mike Fisher-Sergei Kostitsyn
Jordin Tootoo-Craig Smith-Nick Spaling
Matt Halischuk-Blake Geoffrion-Jerred Smithson
Ryan Suter-Shea Weber
Jack Hillen-Kevin Klein
Roman Josi-Jonathan Blum
Rookie Craig Smith leads this team in scoring, getting to 17 last night with an assist on the winning goal in Edmonton. He’s been given the relative high ground in his early NHL tenure this far and has a done nice job with it; he scored one of his seven goals in the third period of Nashville’s prior win over the Flames. The former Wisonsin Badger and fourth round pick has been one of the bright spots this season.
Right behind Smith is the dynamic duo, with Shea Weber and Ryan Suter both sitting with 16 points on the season. Weber tied the game against the Oilers yesterday with Suter assisting on the powerplay marker, a stat line we’re all too used to seeing. There are varying schools of thought when discussing the future of this pairing with the franchise, and those stories have dominated the headlines. Flying under the radar is just how good these two have been; they sit with a combined +26 on the season, even with them going a combined -7 in their last four outings.
Three games below .500, the rest of the pack is pulling away more and more rapidly from the Calgary Flames. Now is the time to put a few together, and this spot in the schedule might be their chance. If the Flames can resemble the team they were Sunday in Minnesota, they might be able to start a small streak here, especially knowing Columbus and Edmonton come after this Predators test tonight. That’s no knock on the next three opponents, but they’re a whole lot more beatable than Calgary’s Sunday test in Vancouver.