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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski / USA Today Sports

FGD 74: Must-win in Music City (6pm MT, SN West)

We love HOME games; have Liquor Depot deliver in under an hour. Click, pick, sit back and watch the game.

Tuesday night’s game between the Calgary Flames and the Washington Capitals could be categorized as a “nice to have” game for the road team. Playing in a tough building, against a really good team, down two key forwards made it tough for the Flames to win. But the Capitals? They’re an Eastern Conference foe and the Flames didn’t give up points to a team that’s chasing them (or that they’re chasing).

The difference between the Flames finishing in the first wildcard position or not could be tonight’s game between Calgary and Nashville. The Flames are just three points up on Nashville (who have a game in hand). A win gives the Flames breathing room and, potentially, an easier first round opponent. A loss makes the final eight games on the docket a lot more stressful.

The action starts at 6 p.m. MT on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960 The Fan!

THE FLAMES

Lines via Daily Faceoff:

Brian Elliott finally lost a decision on Tuesday after winning 11 in a row. Since Elliott’s been ridden like a government mule over the past while, Chad Johnson gets a (relatively) rare opportunity to start tonight. He’s 18-14-1 with a 2.58 goals against average and .912 save percentage. It’s just his fifth start in the Flames past 23 games.

Good news, everyone! Micheal Ferland does not have the mumps. He’s rejoined the team in Nashville and is expected to play. Sitting out tonight are: Matthew Tkachuk (suspension), Ladislav Smid (LTIR, neck), Curis Lazar, Garnet Hathaway, Rasmus Andersson and Dennis Wideman (healthy). The team has used regular recalls on Hathaway and Andersson, and presumably they’ll eventually play, but for right now the team seems focused on getting into the post-season (and getting a spot clinched). Keeping in Freddie Hamilton over Curtis Lazar is probably based on Hamilton being more familiar with the team’s systems and having played more center in the NHL this season than Lazar has.

The key to victory for the Flames? Their penalty kill needs to be better. It gave up two goals against the Capitals, which was the difference-maker in a tight game against a league leader, and ultimately Calgary’s special teams have been rather ordinary over the past 20 games. For the team to kick it up a notch, their power play and penalty kill need to kick it into gear.

THE PREDATORS

Lines via Daily Faceoff:

Pekka Rinne starts for Nashville. He’s 28-16-8 with a 2.51 goals against average and a .915 save percentage. He’s been really solid for the Predators this year, though he’s been fairly streaky. He started the last game against Calgary, only to be chased from the net. His backup, Juuse Saros, has been much better against the Flames than he has.

The Predators are fairly reminiscent of the Capitals. They boast a stacked defensive group and several lines that can hurt you, though they may not be as terrifying as Washington at the top end of their lineup. It should be another tough test for the Flames.

THE NUMBERS

FLAMES PREDATORS
Wins 41 36
Points
(Pct.)
86
(.589)
83
(.576)
Power Play 19.6% 20.2%
Penalty Kill 80.7% 79.9%
Score-Adjusted Corsi 50.6% 51.3%

HISTORY LESSON

This is the 68th meeting between Calgary and Nashville. In 67 previous games, the Flames hold a slim 32-29-6 edge. The road team has won each game between these teams so far this season, with the last game being that downright crazy Flames overtime win in Nashville.

KNOW THY ENEMY

Here are some Predators follows for your reference tonight:

MAGIC NUMBERS

The Flames enter tonight’s game with a magic number of 5. Any combination of 5 Flames wins or Kings losses clinches a playoff spot for the Flames.

SUM IT UP

It’s a big, big game for the Flames as they transition from being a team hoping to be in the playoffs towards being one that wants a favourable match-up. Considering the number of conference games they have remaining, they hold their destiny in their own hands.