Nashville Predators vs. Calgary Flames Preview: Protect the House

The theme of this Nashville Predators matchup preview is protecting the home ice of Bridgestone Arena, a place the Predators used to be a very difficult team to beat.

After their home loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday, the Nashville Predators have slumped to 9-7-3 in front of the Smashville faithful at Bridgestone Arena in 2022-23. Their record on the road is right at .500 at 10-10-3.

The home crowd on Saturday was loud and brought a great atmosphere after the Predators stormed back to tie it at 3-3 with goals from Jeremy Lauzon and Ryan Johansen in a span of 40 seconds off the game clock.

Unfortunately, the NHL’s highest-scoring team in the Sabres came storming back in front to eventually win by a final score of 5-3.

Nashville Predators face Calgary for second time this season

Calgary has been a back and forth team, but on Saturday got a very impressive 6-5 win over the Dallas Stars. They are seven points ahead of the Predators for a wildcard spot, amplifying this game even more for the Predators’ dwindling postseason hopes.

In the first meeting back on November 3, the Predators won in relatively easy fashion to a 4-1 score. It was just their second win of the season to that point since coming back from the Global Series.

Goal scorers in that first meeting were Mark Jankowski, Filip Forsberg and Roman Josi. Kevin Lankinen made his third career start for the Predators and made 29 saves on 30 shots faced.

This time around, the Flames seem to be rounding into form and be more of the playoff contending team many expected going into the season.

The Flames have plenty of prolific scorers to throw at a Predators defense that has been leaky and giving up a lot of shots. Coming into Monday, the Flames are third in the NHL in shots on goal for, while the Predators have given up the sixth-most in the NHL.

It’s a bad combination for the Predators when they’re not scoring on a consistent basis while also giving up a heavy load of shots on the other end. That has to be corrected quickly or this three-game losing streak (zero points in all three) will swell to five or more and really bury the Predators in the standings.

If that happens, you have to start thinking trade deadline and selling if you can make it make sense.

This game is huge for the Predators’ psyche. A Western Conference opponent that you can make up some playoff ground on. It’s a winnable game if the Predators get back to the basics, and dictate a physical pace. High-scoring action end-to-end doesn’t benefit the Predators usually.

Players to watch in the matchup

For the Flames, Nazem Kadri is really on a hot streak right now. He’s on a six-game point streak, tallying nine points in those six games. He will be a menace for the Predators defensive core to deal with.

Elias Lindholm leads the Flames in points with 40. In the November 3 matchup, Lindholm was held off the scoresheet and registered just one shot on goal.

The goalies are unconfirmed for either team, and for the Flames, there’s a bit of a starting goaltender battle emerging. Jacob Markstrom is the regular starter and put up 28 saves on 31 shots in the first meeting with the Predators.

Dan Vladar is the Flames’ backup, and could end up being penciled into tonight’s game. He went up against Dallas on Saturday and surrendered four goals on 33 shots.

In the big Matthew Tkachuk trade over the offseason, the Flames received Jonathan Huberdeau. He got off to a pretty slow start to his Flames career, but has looked good in his last five games. He put up two assists in Saturday’s 6-5 win over Dallas.

The Flames are a really solid team and probably better than their record. They maybe haven’t even played their best hockey yet and still are right in the mix for not only getting a wildcard, but getting back into the top-three of the Pacific Division.

Predators need a disciplined, 60-Minute Game

I’m just not seeing enough consistency from this Predators team as of late. Taking chunks of the game off and getting burned because of it. That’s what happened in the Sabres game on Saturday after tying the score 3-3.

Giving up a shorthand goal in that scenario absolutely can’t happen if you’re locked in and playing disciplined hockey. That game was there for the taking if you stay within your game and avoid the defensive breakdowns.

Both teams are near the bottom in terms of power play success, but the Flames did tally twice with the man advantage on Saturday against Dallas. Their penalty kill is top-10 in the NHL, while the Predators have just one power play goal over their last five games.

I’m not going to sugarcoat this at all. The Flames are more than capable of blowing the Predators out on Monday night in Nashville. The Predators have been going back to their old ways of taking bad penalties, disrupting momentum and not playing a 60-minute game.

Relying on Juuse Saros to bail you out on all of your miscues is not a sustainable strategy, as much fun as it is to watch Saros just steal wins away from the opponents.

Matchup
Calgary Flames
21-14-9
Nashville Predators
19-17-6
Monday, January 16
8 PM ET
Bally Sports South, ESPN+

I’m looking for Juuso Parssinen to continue on his upward trend in the NHL rookie race. He got a late start but is still among the league leaders in points per game among rookies. Keeping him on a line with Forsberg and Matt Duchene is paramount.

With the loss of Eeli Tolvanen on waivers, the Predators front office really looks bad right now. Tolvanen is thriving so far in Seattle, while the Predators continue to search for answers with an offense that rarely surpasses three goals in a game.

Looks like another matchup where near-perfect goaltending will have to be the answer for a Nashville Predators win. I just don’t see these two teams being anywhere close on paper. The Flames are a well-structured team trending in the right direction, and the Predators starting to suffer an identity crisis.