Mar 19, 2013; Columbus, OH, USA; Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne (35) makes a save during the second period against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

Gameday: Calgary Flames at Nashville Predators, 3/21/13

CALGARY FLAMES

at NASHVILLE PREDATORS

March 21st, 2013
Bridgestone Arena
Nashville, Tennessee
7:00 p.m. CST
TV: FOX Sports Tennessee
Calgary leads season series 1-0

The one time the Nashville Predators met the Calgary Flames this season was at the Scotiabank Saddledome last Friday, when the Flames handed Nashville an embarrassing 6-3 loss. Tonight the Calgary visits Bridgestone Arena and the Preds hope to return the favor.

NHL: Calgary Flames at Dallas Stars

Despite his advancing age, Jarome Iginla is still one of Calgary’s top scorers. (PHOTO: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)

CALGARY FLAMES

(11-12-4, 4th in Northwest)

The Flames have played just once since beating the Preds last Friday, a 4-3 regulation loss to the Dallas Stars.

Key players

Six Calgary players have as many (or more) points than the Preds’ leading scorer, the injured Colin Wilson. Tops among them are Alex Tanguay (9G-13A) and Mike Cammalleri (9G-13A), followed closely by Lee Stempniak (7G-14A) and Jarome Iginla (7G-13A).

Miikka Kiprusoff (5-5-2, 3.27 GAA, .876 SV%) has won his last two starts for the Flames, but at age 36 he’s not the dominant netminder he once was. Of course, playing behind the bad defense and terrible penalty kill assembled by GM Jay Feaster has a lot to do with that. On the right night, though, he can still shut down a mediocre team. (Hey, Nashville has one of those!)

NHL: Detroit Red Wings at Calgary Flames

Curtis Glencross wasn’t the first player to have a hat trick against Nashville this season. (PHOTO: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports)

Others to watch

Curtis Glencross (12G-7A) is the Flames’ leading goalscorer, thanks to the hat trick he had against Nashville last Friday. The last one might have been an empty-netter, but the first two were definitely legit.

NASHVILLE PREDATORS

(11-13-6, 5th in Central)

After a devastating 1-for-5 performance on their recent road trip, Nashville’s dwindling playoff hopes rest on the fact that 12 of their remaining 18 games are at home. If they can’t get the first of those 12 in the “W” column tonight, their chances will drop from slim to nearly nonexistent.

Key players

Pekka Rinne (10-10-5, 2.31, .912) is 0-2-0 with a 5.22 GAA and .803 SV% in his last four starts. Two of those saw him pulled for backup Chris Mason, including the loss to the Flames last Friday in which Rinne gave up two goals on the Flames’ first two shots. Frankly, without Pekka in top form the quest to make the playoffs by picking up 26 points in the last 18 games is beyond this team’s ability.

NHL: Nashville Predators at Columbus Blue Jackets

Gabriel Bourque has one of the Nashville Predators’ few bright spots lately. (PHOTO: Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports)

Others to watch

Shea Weber (5G-13A) has 17 points in 17 games and is one away from surpassing the injured Colin Wilson for the team scoring lead. He’s pulling more than his share of the load, which is good news because several players seem to have given up entirely.

Gabriel Bourque (10G-2A) always seems to be in the right place at the right time lately when the Preds are trying to come back from a deficit. If only Barry Trotz could ice two or three of Bourque…

Bottom line

The Nashville Predators have lost sight of the team identity that has served them so well for so long. Finding a way to win again means getting back to the things that define “Predator hockey”: elite goaltending, stingy defense, and goals from up and down the lineup when they’re needed most. In Calgary they face a team with plenty of struggles of its own. If Nashville can rediscover its identity, the Flames are certainly a beatable opponent. If not – well, we all know what happened last Friday.

Tags: Calgary Flames Nashville Predators