The Calgary Flames are hitting the road after a very successful five-game home-stand. The first stop on their four game trip across the Central Division (and Detroit) begins tonight in Nashville against the Predators.
The Flames are probably feeling pretty happy to have escaped the last two weeks undefeated. Well, they’re good at home, but they’ve won just one road game since the beginning of November – going 1-6-1 in the process. If they have visions of playoff hockey in their heads, and they might given how awful the Pacific Division has been this season, they’ll need to win some games outside of the Saddledome to get there.
And a win tonight gets them to where they haven’t been since October 13: the .500 mark.
The puck drops at 6pm MT on Sportsnet Flames and Sportsnet 960 The Fan.
Projected lines via Daily Faceoff:
Karri Ramo’s now fully over whatever was ailing him, so despite Jonas Hiller being “okay” (per Bob Hartley) lately, Ramo gets his net back. On the season, Ramo’s 9-8-1 with a 3.00 goals against average and a .901 save pecentage, which are downright sparkling numbers by the standards of a team that’s given up over 100 goals this season. Lance Bouma’s on the trip, but isn’t fully cleared yet but possibly could be soon. Roster moves are probably forthcoming.
UPDATE: Epic roster change for tonight!
#Flames Engelland goes in for Ladislav Smid .
— Roger Millions (@RogMillions) December 15, 2015
The Flames are winners of five straight, which is great until you remember that they needed extra time for three of those wins and that their game still has holes you could drive a bus through. Of note: many goals off rebounds out front of their net, inability to clear the zone consistently, challenges gaining the zone on the power-play, and a penalty kill that has looked shaky basically all season. Oh, and they seemed to forget their discipline against the Rangers by giving them five power-plays.
The optimist’s view? If they can fix a handful of their many, many issues, they may find a way to continue winning hockey games. Straight up: if they fix the holes in their game faster than the other five bad teams in their division, they could very well make the playoffs.
Projected lines via Daily Faceoff:
Pekka Rinne likely gets the start tonight. He’s 12-8-0 with a 2.43 goals against average and a .907 save percentage. He hasn’t been amazing this season, but he also hasn’t been Jonas Hiller or Karri Ramo, either.
The Predators haven’t quite gotten their legs under them this season, and have alternated wins and losses over the last little while. They’re not a bad team, and we saw at times last season that their depth makes them downright scary now that Peter Laviolette is behind the bench, but they’ve been marred by injuries and inconsistency this season. But man, that’s a scary blueline, eh?
And hey, look, 2002 Calgary Flames first round pick Eric Nystrom continues his quietly-effective NHL career on the Preds fourth line.
WHEN LAST WE MET
Tonight’s the first meeting of the season between Calgary and Nashville. Last season, the Flames won all three meetings between the two clubs: 3-2 in a shootout in Nashville in October, 4-3 in Calgary in October, and 5-2 in Nashville in March.
All-time, the Flames are 29-27-4-2 against the Nashville Predators.
“Only the ladder is real. The climb is all there is.” – Petyr Baelish, Game of Thrones
The Flames open the night two points behind Arizona and Edmonton for a playoff spot with one and two games-in-hand, respectively. A win in regulation puts them third in the Pacific, albeit temporarily. (They don’t have the ROW tie-breaker against Arizona.)
SUM IT UP
A win tonight gets the Flames to the .500 mark, which seemed like an impossible dream a few weeks ago. Strange what a winning streak can do for a team’s confidence.