(Sergei Belski / USA Today Sports)
We love HOME games; have Liquor Depot deliver in under an hour. Click, pick, sit back and watch the game.
Gang, let’s start with a disclaimer: over the next eight weeks we’re going to use the phrase “This is the biggest game of the season” so many times that it will lose all meaning. That said, this is the biggest game of the season for the Flames… so far.
The Calgary Flames have 23 games left on their schedule. They have earned 62 points. If they can get to 90 points, they’ll almost definitely qualify for the playoffs (and 88 points may even be enough). If the Flames play at a pace that’s just over .500, and they can beat the teams that they’re competing with for a playoff spot, they’ll make it. The Nashville Predators are currently in the first wildcard spot in the West, just two points up on Calgary. The Flames can tie them with a regulation win tonight and start their march towards April 8 on the right note. It’ll be a playoff-like atmosphere in Nashville between two clubs that will need to play playoff style hockey over the next eight weeks in order to get in.
The puck drops at 6 p.m. MT on Sportsnet One and Sportsnet 960 The Fan.
Lines via Daily Faceoff:
In a bit of a break with the “win and you’re in” credo, Brian Elliott gets the start despite taking the loss on Saturday in Vancouver. Aside from the weird knuckleball goal from Alex Edler against the Canucks, Elliott was very sharp on Saturday. He’s 12-13-3 with a 2.76 goals against average and a .898 save percentage.
As you could imagine, the Flames see this as a very important game for their playoff hopes. After Monday’s practice, Flames captain Mark Giordano shared a few thoughts: “Honestly, it’s a fun time to play. Games all have that atmosphere. I thought in Vancouver the other night, there was a good atmosphere, I thought we played well. But again, it’s little things in every game – a mistake here or a miscue there – that are going to be the difference. We have to be sharp.”
Based on morning skate, Michael Stone will dress tonight (wearing #26), while the extra Flames bodies will be Jyrki Jokipakka, Dennis Wideman and Freddie Hamilton. They haven’t waived anybody, which makes it seem like they’ll roll with eight defensemen on their roster for the time being.
Lines via Daily Faceoff:
Despite the success of Juuse Saros both in his last start and against the Flames when they met last month, he sits and Pekke Rinne starts for this big game. Rinne’s 22-15-6 with a 2.43 goals against average and a .913 save percentage this season. I suppose it’s not that much of a surprise given that the Preds have been riding Rinne this season to the point where Saros and Marek Mazanec have been rotating back and forth from the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals to get playing time.
The Predators are mostly healthy, missing Cody McLeod and Miikka Salomaki. Look at that blueline. That blueline terrifies me, as their top four is just insanely good and it’s extremely tough – especially on the road – to avoid a particular match-up. The line mixing and matching will be very interesting tonight, as it’ll be a challenge for the Flames to get Johnny Gaudreau some time and space away from the likes of Josi or Ekholm.
The Predators enter the evening three points back of St. Louis for the third Central Division spot with two games in hand. While this game is important for the Flames, it’s just as important for the Predators.
This is the 67 meeting between Calgary and Nashville. In 66 previous games, the Flames hold a slim 31-29-6 edge. The Flames lost to Nashville in Calgary back in January. After this game, they’ll play once more in Nashville in late March.
KNOW THY ENEMY
Here are some Predators follows for your reference tonight:
SUM IT UP
If the Flames win this game in regulation, they’ll be tied with Nashville in points (but the Predators will be ahead on points percentage) and they’ll give themselves a bit of breathing room while the Jets and Kings chase them. A loss makes life infinitely more difficult for the Flames.
If there ever was an occasion for a big game from somebody like Gaudreau or Monahan, tonight would be a perfect time.