Ahh yes, those were the days huh? Such grit, and not a whole lot else.
The Flames and Preds used to be a sneaky good rivalry, mostly because I can remember the Preds simply owning the Flames the vast majority of the time. I am sure we all remember the Vokoun/Kipper fight which was crazyness and the McLennan/Vokoun/Iginla dust up was wild too. Nowadays, I wouldn’t exactly consider a Preds/Flames game must see TV but the Flames are on a home winning streak dangnabbit, and they are looking to make it a two game winning streak.
The Flames (17-27-7) welcome the Nashville Predators (23-22-7) tonight in the second game of a five-game homestand. The Flames are on that aforementioned one-game home winning streak after they held on to beat the Coyotes 3-2 on Wednesday. The Flames will also likely be welcoming escapee Devan Dubnyk back to the Saddledome, a place where he shut out the Flames 2-0 in his last start against them on December 27.
The Flames welcomed back Kris Russell and David Jones this week and all this considered they both have played quite well. David Jones picked up an assist against Phoenix and Russell had one against San Jose so they both have contributed some offence since returning. In the game against San Jose, Paul Byron blocked a shot off the ankle and missed the game against Phoenix while in that game, Brian Mcgrattan blocked a shot and will miss this game.
Looks like Byron is good to go for tonight which is a good thing because he rules. Unfortunately, Byron will be on a line with Westgarth but who knows, with B.Jones and Byron, one can almost see the makings of a fourth line that can skate and maybe even score every once in a while.
Here’s the lineup courtesy of Dailyfaceoff.com
– Hudler – Backlund – Stempniak
– Galiardi – Monahan – Colborne
– Bouma – Stajan – D.Jones
– Byron – B. Jones – Westgarth
– Brodie – Jyordano
– Russell – Butler
– O’Brien – Wideman
The Flames will be without Ladislav Smid as well tonight as he is sitting out with what is thought to be an accumulation of a bunch of different ailments. That means fans will be treated to the ‘defense’ of Shane O’Brien again tonight, though of late O’Brien’s play hasn’t been as markedly horrid as it was earlier in the season. Or perhaps I have become numb to it. Either way, he’s in and Smid sits.
Karri Ramo has been quite solid lately and, as Justin was mentioning on twitter the other day, has been solidifying his position as the clear starting goalie with a .917 sv% at evens. That’s compared to a .899 from Berra, and that’s with Berra seeing 32 fewer even strength shots.
Last game, Sean Monahan had good jump, fought well in puck battles, and generally played one of his best games since returning from his foot injury. His line actually played quite well, the much maligned Galiardi included, with Monahan scoring the first goal of the game with assists from both of his linemates. Colborne recently spoke to the Flames media people about his switch to wing and I would think that we should get used to seeing him on the wing as his time at centre was rather rocky.
THE TEAM BARRY TROTZ WILL COACH FOREVER
– Wilson – Fisher – Hornqvist
– Spaling – Legwand – Smith
– Bourque – Cullen – Nystrom
– Clune – Gaustad – Stalberg
– Josi – Weber
– Del Zotto – Jones
– Bartley – Ellis
I am sure you know exactly what to expect from the Preds by now. A hard-working, trapping, skate you into the mud type of team without any real flash but will lull you to sleep and score greasy goals. That is basically still their game and their forwards are all solid but no one really jumps out at you.
The Preds have a pretty decent group of centremen though with Cullen and Gaustad centring their bottom six. It really just goes to show how good a team needs to be down the middle if this is the group that Nashville has, and they are only a game above .500.
The real strength of this team is their defense. They have, or are certainly going to have, one of the best defensive corps in the NHL with Weber, Jones, Ellis, Josi, Ekholm, and now Del Zotto. They are clearly trying to build from the back-end and hope they can win a lot of games 2-1.
As I mentioned before, Dubnyk gets the start tonight as the Preds continue to try to hold on until Pekka Rinne returns. Dubnyk is one of five goalies to have a win this season for the Preds, with Mazanec and Hutton carrying the majority of the mail so far.
Also, do you guys remember Sergei Krivokrasov? Man, he used to kill the Flames.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
pic via SlidingSideways
It will be interesting to see how del Zotto looks in Nashville as he looks to be paired with Seth Jones to start. That could be a very good pairing for them and could give MDZ a chance to revitalize his career. Up front, Craig Smith is having a quietly good season, leading the team in goals with 16 and is likely benefitting from having the dependable Legwand as his centreman.
Also, watch Dubnyk, whom I am sure gets ‘Nam flashbacks during odd-man rushes still. Hopefully he doesn’t continue his very recently acquired mastery of ‘dome ice.
For the Flames, Matt Stajan has been a scoring machine since inking a new four-year deal this week. Well, he’s scored in two of his last three but still, for this team that is pretty formidable. Tonight, he is on a line with Bouma and David Jones so offense won’t come easy, but look for Stajan to be used in a lot of tough situations.
SUM IT UP
The Preds have won two straight and are still theoretically in the mix in their division but in reality, this is a game between a bottom-feeder and an also-ran. However, the Flames have been playing much better hockey in their past few games and won a gutsy game against Phoenix so hopefully this one will be a good one to take in as well.
Puck drops at 7pm MT on SNET West.