By Amanda DiPaolo
Nashville Predators 33-23-9
Calgary Flames 34-24-9
The Nashville Predators visit Calgary to take on the Flames for the fourth and final time during the regular season. Nashville has lost all three previous outings against the Flames, including two decisions that needed extra time, one in overtime and the other in a shootout.
The Flames have 2 points more than the Predators, but Nashville has two games in hand.
Nashville’s netminder, Pekka Rinne has yet to beat Calgary in his career and has a 0-3-2 record against the Flames. After losing in a shootout on February 2nd, Rinne was asked what was so tough about Calgary. In his postgame comments Rinnesaid “They have been playing pretty well against us. Personally, it seems impossible to beat them. I find a way to lose a game. I feel like it was my fault.”
Rinne has a 3.17 goals against average against Calgary and a save percentage of .894, not the stellar numbers he regularly puts up. The Kempele, Finland native enjoys a goals against average of 2.08 and a save percentage of .929, good for second in the entire League.
Rinne will try again for the sixth time to beat Miikka Kiprusoff, who on Friday stopped two penalty shots in the same game on shots from Matt Calvert and Antoine Vermette in the Flames 4-3 win over Columbus. Kiprusoff is expected to make his twentieth consecutive start on Sunday night.
The Predators are coming off of an impressive 3-0 shutout of the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday night. It was the first time this season that the Canucks were shutout on home ice. The win put Nashville up to 75 points in the Western Conference standings, the exact same number of points the team had after 65 games last season, a season when the Predators ended with 100 points.
The difference between this year’s squad and last year’s edition of the Predators is the number of man games lost. The Predators have five players in injured reserve and in total the team has lost 260 man-games lost to injury. With 16 games left in the regular season, this year’s man-games lost total is already the fourth highest in team history. Last season’s 100 point season came with a franchise-low 152 man-games due to injury.
While Brentwood native Blake Geoffrion has scored in two consecutive games, and Jon Blum picked up his first NHL goal last week, with the injuries, the Predators need those who are expected to be leaders on the ice to produce. David Legwand has two goals in the last three games and has four goals and five assists for nine points in 11 games. Martin Erat has picked up 14 points in 16 games with four goals and 10 assists. But these numbers include two games where the Predators were simply shutout.
Patric Hornqvist scored for the first time in nine games against Vancouver and also registered seven shots on goal on Thursday night alone. Hornqvist has been called a streaky player, with any luck, his late game heroics on Thursday will be the start of some consistency in his offense.
After Sunday’s game, the Predators wrap-up their road trip in San Jose on Tuesday night when they take on the Sharks for the final time during the regular season. Nashville has a 2-0-1 record against the Sharks this season.
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