The Calgary Flames (4-4-0) have crashed back to .500 after a decent in the standings, losing their last two games. That said, they’ve played like a .500 team with the bumps and rough spots in their game that you would expect to see from an uneven team. Tonight they head to scenic Nashville, Tennessee to play the Predators (4-3-1), a team that went to the Stanley Cup Final last season and was very, very good. The Flames will need to focus on the basics – clean zone exits, structured breakouts and smart, direct attacks at the net – if they want to leave Nash-Vegas north of .500.
The puck drops at 6 p.m. MT on Sportsnet 960 The Fan and Sportsnet Flames.
Here are tonight’s projected lines, courtesy of Daily Faceoff:
Gaudreau – Monahan (A) – Ferland
Tkachuk – Backlund – Frolik
Bennett – Jankowski – Lazar
Versteeg – Stajan – Brouwer (A)
Giordano (C) – D.Hamilton
Brodie – Hamonic
Kulak – Stone
Mike Smith starts for the Flames for the ninth time this season, with Eddie Lack slated to start tomorrow in St. Louis. It sounds like Matt Bartkowski, Freddie Hamilton and Tanner Glass will be in the press box this evening. The Flames have been idle since dropping a 4-2 decision to the Wild on Saturday night.
Mark Jankowski makes his season debut for the Flames, wearing #77 and centering a line between Sam Bennett and Curtis Lazar. With Jaromir Jagr out for roughly a week, Jankowski has probably three games to convince Flames management that (a) Bennett’s a winger, (b) Jankowski is a full-time NHLer, and (c) that Freddie Hamilton or Tanner Glass should be waived and sent to the AHL instead of him.
The Flames will be dressing five of their own first round picks (and have homegrown talent on three of four lines and two of three defensive pairings), which is probably a record.
Nashville’s projected lines via Daily Faceoff:
Forsberg – Johansen (A) – Arvidsson
Hartnell – Jarnkrok – Salomaki
Fiala – Sissons – Smith
McLeod – Gaudreau – Watson
Josi (C) – Ekholm (A)
Emelin – Subban
Irwin – Weber
Pekke Rinne starts for the Predators, with Juusu Saros backing him up. Anthony Bitetto, Samuel Girard and Pontus Aberg are the extras. Nashville’s coming off a disappointing 4-2 setback to the Rangers on Saturday night.
The Predators have been good, but not great, so far this season. They’ve struggled at times with injuries and while nobody’s going to blame a Cup Final hangover, it’s hard to imagine the short summer isn’t playing a role. That said, the Preds are a strong team: they have a deadly top four blueline group, a strong veteran goalie, and a Gaudreau.
Flames: Daniel Pribyl (knee) and Jaromir Jagr (lower-body) are on the injured reserve.
Nashville: Ryan Ellis (undisclosed) and Nick Bonino (lower-body) are on the injured reserve.
When Last We Met
Nashville took two of three meetings from the Flames last season. The Predators beat Calgary 3-1 in the Flames’ last trip to Nashville.
Know Thy Enemy
Here are some Predators-related Twitter accounts for this evening:
Sum It Up
It’s the first half of a back-to-back on the road for the Flames. They haven’t had a ton of success in Nashville in recent years, but hopefully a road trip – and not having last change – will force the Flames to focus on the basics (like clean defensive zone play) and provide a foundation for future success.