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5 THINGS - FLAMES @ PREDATORS

The Flames look to stay perfect on the road trip with a stop in the Music City

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick / CalgaryFlames.com

FLAMES (33-25-6) at PREDATORS (31-23-8)

6 p.m. MT | TV: Sportsnet | RADIO: Sportsnet 960 The FAN

2018-19 Season Series: 1-1-0

 

Leading Scorers:

Flames:

Points - Matthew Tkachuk (54)
Goals - Elias Lindholm (27)

Predators:

Points - Roman Josi (57)
Goals - Filip Forsberg (18)

Special Teams:

Flames:

PP - 20.1% (18th) / PK - 82.4% (7th)

Predators:

PP - 16.7% (24th) / PK - 74.1% (31st)

Advanced Stats:

Flames:

Shot Attempts: 50.36% (14th)
High-Danger Chances: 50.69% (13th)

Predators:

Shot Attempts: 45.84% (31st)
High-Danger Chances: 44.54% (30th)

 

Video: A preview of a big tilt between the Flames and Preds.


1. US

The Flames are coming off their best and most complete game of the season when they dispatched the Boston Bruins 5-2 on Tuesday in Beantown.

Sean Monahan and Mikael Backlund had two goals apiece, while Matthew Tkachuk added the other and David Rittich stopped 25 of 27 shots in the victory.

The Flames had their foot on the gas from the drop of the puck, and even though the Bruins turned a 3-1 deficit into a one-goal game late in the contest, there was no panic from the road squad. They clamped down defensively, and Backlund - as he has done so often lately - came through in the clutch with a massive insurance marker with only 90 seconds on the clock.

It was a beautiful solo effort that saw the pivot bank the side boards to himself in full flight, before darting into the middle and firing a shot five-hole on Tuukka Rask to make it a 4-2 lead.

It was only fitting, then, that he would also tap home the empty-net strike as the Flames improved to 2-0 on a season-long, five-game road trip.

"I thought it was an excellent effort by our guys," glowed interim head coach Geoff Ward. "We played with an awful lot of composure. This is a hard building to play in, but I thought we came in and did a really good job in terms of staying focused. We did a really good job of being emotionally attached to the game, but not being out of control emotionally. I thought we did a real good job in our end; we got pucks moving forward.

"All in all, it was a real good effort by our team."

Mark Giordano (hamstring) was a game-time decision after skating with his longtime partner, TJ Brodie , at the morning skate, but did not play. The skipper has now missed nine games - the first of which came against the Predators back on Feb. 6.

"Been ramping it up the last week, week-and-a-half," Giordano said that day. "It feels really good, really comfortable. We've done everything. There's been days when I've taken contact and days when you push it skating. Obviously, the staff here does an unbelievable job with the treatment, It feels really good and turned the corner quick. … You get that excitement back again when you come back. You get that surge of adrenaline in skating with the guys. It's going to be good energy that I've saved up the last three weeks."

With the captain was unable to play, fans were able to get their first look at Erik Gustafsson and Derek Forbort following Monday's trade deadline.

Gustafsson had an assist and played an even 21 minutes, while Forbort had two hits, one blocked, and was a key character on the penalty-kill in 17:54 of work.

 

Video: "We understand the game is big."

 

2. THEM

With a win over the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday, the Predators moved back into a playoff spot for the first time since Nov. 13 - passing the Winnipeg Jets and Arizona Coyotes for the second wild-card seed.

The Preds, who have won two straight and are 5-1-1 in their last seven, trail the Flames by two points and have two games in hand.

On Tuesday, the club rallied from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits with a pair of goals in the front half of the second period and cruised to a 3-2 victory.

Colin Blackwell, Ryan Ellis and Viktor Arvidsson supplied the offence, while Juuse Saros made 33 saves.

"More or less, [it's] win and get in," Ellis told Robby Stanley of NHL.com. "We've just got to keep winning our games in hand, trust the process, keep working and doing our part. We control our own destiny, for the most part, and it's a lot better feeling when you control your destiny versus you hope someone loses."

Ellis recently returned after missing 20 games with a concussion. In his three games back, the blueliner has three points (1G, 2A) and has averaged nearly 23 minutes per spin.

"He was off for a long time, but he's also a guy that's in great shape," said Predators head coach John Hynes. "He really takes care of himself. And, as we said, I think he knows the game very well, but he's also a student of the game. He's been in all the meetings. He's watched practices. He was able to practice prior to coming back. He's a veteran player that's been around, played for different coaches, played different systems. I think the big thing for him even when he spoke with me prior to coming back was 'It'll probably take a few shifts or maybe a first period and I'll be back up to speed.' And he's been back up to speed pretty quick."

Saros, meanwhile, has taken over the No. 1 job between the pipes, pushing veteran Pekka Rinne into the backup role with nine wins in his last 11 starts. In that span, the 24-year-old has a .933 save percentage (second-best among goalies with at least 10 appearances) and a miniscule 2.22 goals-against average.

 

3. US VS. THEM

This is the third and final meeting between these two teams, barring a possible playoff matchup.

In their only other visit to the Music City this year, the Flames took a 6-5 overtime decision, courtesy of Matthew Tkachuk.

The Flames rallied from a 4-1 - then a 5-4 - third-period deficit, with Tkachuk tying the game late, before winning it in overtime with what can only be described as the goal of the year.

Tkachuk went between his own legs on a loose puck between the hash marks, roofing it over Pekka Rinne's right shoulder to give the
Flames the two points.

It was billed as one of the greatest comebacks in franchise history, and rightfully so.

 

Video: CGY@NSH: Tkachuk goes between his legs for OT winner

 

Derek Ryan , Rasmus Andersson , Elias Lindholm and Alan Quine also had goals for Calgary, while David Rittich made 31 saves in the win.

Most recently, it was the Preds who got the upper hand, defeating the Flames 3-2 on Feb. 6 at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

Kyle Turris and Mikael Granlund each had a goal and an assist, while Sam Bennett and Rasmus Andersson dented the twine for the homeside.

The Flames are 6-4-0 in their last 10 meetings and hold an all-time record of 37-33-4-2 against the Preds, including a 19-19-1-0 mark on the road.

 

4. THIS, THAT & THE OTHER

THIS: With his two-goal effort in Tuesday's victory, Sean Monahan became the first player in Calgary Flames history to record seven straight 20-goal seasons from the start of his NHL career. Only three others had at least seven consecutive 20-goal seasons with the club; Jarome Iginla (13), Theo Fleury (10), Joe Nieuwendyk (8). Monahan is also now tied with Hakan Loob for the seventh-most goals in Calgary Flames franchise history at 193. ... THAT: Mikael Backlund has now scored eight goals in his last eight games after another two-goal performance on Tuesday in Boston. Backlund has three multi-goal games in his last six outings, pushing his season goal total up to 14. Backlund is currently riding a four-game point streak (4G, 3A). ... THE OTHER: The Flames have the NHL's best road record since Nov. 23, and are 15-4-1 in their last 20 road tilts. The Flames are averaging 3.45 goals per game on the road over that span, and are getting a .930 save percentage from their goaltenders.

 

Video: "We've been playing well."

 

5. PLAYERS TO WATCH

Flames - Johnny Gaudreau

Gaudreau is currently on a five-game point streak (2G, 4A) and 22 points in as many games since the turn of the calendar.

He's back.

Best of all, his running-mate Sean Monahan is also firing on all cylinders, and the pair has hooked up for some key goals recently.

Predators - Roman Josi

Josi is having an excellent season offensively. He enters tonight's contest only one goal off his career high (15), and already has more points (57) than he had all of last year (56), in 20 less games.

He's also a defensive workhorse is averaging nearly 26 minutes per game in ice time this year,

Incredibly, the 29-year-old is pointless in his last five, but you know what they say:

Do not wake a sleeping giant.

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