Tonight’s match north of the border is bound to be another tough battle for the uprising Nashville Predators, as the Calgary flames seek redemption.
Calgary is a team that just like the Nashville Predators this season, can be somewhat unpredictable. With forwards like Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk, however, Nashville has to apply serious pressure when it comes to terms of defense.
The Flames are one of the current wildcard teams heading into this one. So there really takes no emphasizing how important this game is for the Predators. They let one slip away against Vegas in this same position just five days ago, but redeemed themselves against Winnipeg after that.
Head coach John Hynes is starting mold this team into one that he wants. He’s been detailed about the changes he wants, and gradually we’re seeing things improve in some areas, mostly on the defensive side of things.
The winter classic still stings
With Ryan Ellis being injured in the Winter Classic and still being out for possibly the remainder of this road trip, the Predators are feeling a bit of a sting in terms of their defense. Calgary has been known to strike quick, and they can play relentless hockey.
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Look for the Predators defense to fight hard to keep Calgary out of their zone, and the lack of Ellis is hurting them for he may be the missing piece needed for the push.
However, Ellis has been skating at practice and is expected to return after the four game road trip, as per Fox Sports.com.
Either way, the Predators will have to execute effective defense, block the crease and play back to avoid the odd man rush that Calgary can create. They’ve been showing gradual progress in this area as of late, and especially since John Hynes took over as head coach.
Battle of the dekes
Calgary has some serious weapons when it comes to their forwards, and with Gaudreau being one of the best and most creative danglers in the league, it’s no surprise that the Flames can slip past a solid defense and put shots on goal.
Gaudreau has 14 goals and 28 assists for a combined total of 42 points this season, and with a total of 54 games played so far, he is just getting started. Look for him to get creative in the neutral zone, drive to the net, and most importantly watch his hands, for he can strike past most goaltenders quickly.
Now let’s look at the Predators’ weapons. They have some serious firepower of their own as we all know. How that hasn’t quite been completely let loose this season, but watch out for Filip Forsberg tonight as he’s been hitting a hot streak of his own recently.
I’m telling you he is on the break of exploding this season, and with Duchene feeding him passes, he can out-snipe any goaltender in the league. Forsberg knows that he has to match with Gaudreau, and he knows what he has to do. I can foresee it being a high-scoring game tonight if both offenses come out headstrong.
The train kept rolling
Nashville has no doubt been playing way better on the road than at home, and though it can be frustrating to see Nashville hand over a 3-0 shutout to Vegas at Bridgestone Arena, they play harder it seems in any other building.
Nashville slipped out of Winnipeg two nights ago with a 2-1 overtime victory, and they seem to be showing some improvements across the board. The winning streak has started over yet again, and Nashville has three games left on this road trip.
It will be interesting to see how it plays out for the Predators, and one can only hope that the Predators come out headstrong and ready to play desperate hockey tonight. Either way, the Predators will have a battle on their hands in round two of the four game road trip north of the border.
Many mark the loss to Calgary at home back on Halloween night as the turning point of the season when the Predators began to tailspin into the bottomless pit of the division standings. It’s taken them a couple months and a head coach firing to get back near the thick of things.
The Predators have nine games left before the trade deadline on February 24th. The results of these next several games will change the entire outlook and approach of how the Predators front office enters that day as buyers or sellers.
Puck drops tonight at 8 P.M. CDT in Calgary. The Predators have won six of their last eight on the road. Game can be viewed on Fox Sports Tennessee or the Fox Sports GO app.