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5 THINGS - FLAMES VS. PREDATORS

The Flames look to bounce back in a pivotal clash with the Predators

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick / CalgaryFlames.com

FLAMES (27-21-6) vs. PREDATORS (25-20-7)

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

2019-20 Season Series: 1-0-0

 

Video: Brendan Parker sets up tonight's tilt

 

 

 

Leading Scorers:

Flames:

Points - Matthew Tkachuk, Johnny Gaudreau (42)
Goals - Elias Lindholm (22)

Predators:

Points - Roman Josi (51)
Goals - Filip Forsberg (18)

Special Teams:

Flames:

PP - 20.0% (13th) / PK - 81.7% (12th)

Predators:

PP - 16.6% (25th) / PK - 74.5% (26th)

Advanced Stats:

Flames:

Shot Attempts: 50.38% (13th)
High-Danger Chances: 49.53% (19th)

Predators:

Shot Attempts: 51.78% (8th)
High-Danger Chances: 49.82% (18th)

 


1. US

A day later, the uncertainty lingered.

A 3-1 defeat to the San Jose Sharks only 48 hours ago was compounded with the loss of the Flames' heart-and-soul captain, Mark Giordano, in the process.

Giordano exited the game late in the second period after stretching out and falling awkwardly as he attempted to fire home a loose puck from a sharp angle, deep on his off side.

The reigning Norris Trophy winner left the ice under his own power, but was in obvious pain as he arrived on the bench and, later, the dressing room, not to return.

The 36-year-old underwent an MRI on Wednesday afternoon to determine the severity of the injury.

An update was not immediately available.

Still, the possibility of the team's No. 1 defenceman being out for any length of time sent shockwaves around the room, with longtime partner, TJ Brodie, calling it a "big blow."

As fellow blueliners made the rounds and articulated the value of their tough-as-nails leader, the 'fix' became clear:

They'll have to do it together.

"We don't know how long 'G' is going to be out for, but you're never going to replace a Norris winner, our best player, our leader and hardest worker," said the rugged Travis Hamonic. "When you go down the list, he's at the top of everything, right? You're never going to replace a guy like that and I think everyone knows it. But at the same time, I think you have to keep pushing forward. Everyone's got to pick their game up a handful of notches to try and eat those minutes and try and help ease the load that he takes every night for our group.

"I think everyone can view it as a challenge, but hopefully it's not a challenge for too long, because it means he's coming back soon. But we've got to roll with it as a group and collectively keep pushing forward.

The Flames have had some good fortune with injuries this year (*knock on wood*), with only 49 man games lost. Austin Czarnik (who's currently lighting it up with the Stockton Heat) was the last player to a miss game due to injury, way back on Dec. 17.

With 28 games left on the docket, this could be a big test for the club.

 

Video: "He's the top of everything"

 

"You want to be a resilient group," Hamonic said. "You're going to face adversity as a player, as a team, and quite frankly, as a person in life - you're going to face some adversity, right? It's how you respond and keep pushing forward.

"Not every day is going to be the best day. Not every game or practice is going to be the best, but if you can look back at the bigger picture, more of the body of work, to say you pushed through…

"Hopefully we don't have to do it too, too long here without - in my opinion - the best D man in the league. We'll see what happens, let it unfold day by day and keep working. We're still in a good spot as a team and that's all you can ask for at this time of year."

The Flames currently hold down the second wild-card spot - three points clear of the Predators, who have two games in hand.

Following Tuesday's loss to the Sharks, interim head coach Geoff Ward said he wanted his players to use the "anger" - not "frustration" - of a 1-3-1 slide to get back on track.

"I think it's a totally different emotion," Ward said. "I think the bottom line for us is, and we've talked about it before - I don't think frustration does a whole lot for you. I think anger does a lot more for you. When we're sick and tired as a group of seeing this and losing games, we'll find a way to fix it. But more than anything, you've got to hate losing. I hope the emotion is more anger than frustration so that we're more prepared to do something about it. With frustration, you kind of feel like it's out of your control. Everything that's happening out there is inside our control and we've got to react in the right way to get our game back and get going in the right direction again."

Following tonight's game, the Flames will hit the four straight, beginning on Saturday in Vancouver.

 

2. THEM

The Predators are coming off a massive, 2-1 overtime victory over the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday, and have now won three of their last four games.

Mikael Granlund struck on a 2-on-1, 1:11 into the extra period, while Nick Bonino scored the other in regulation. Juuse Saros made 33 saves for the Preds who, with the win, pulled into a tie with the Jets for fourth place in the Central.

They're also now only three points back of the Flames for the final playoff spot, with two games in hand.

"There wasn't a lot of free ice out there, but it was nice that we could find a way to win it, get ourselves back up after how we played on Saturday (in a 3-0 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights) and get off to a good start on the road trip," Predators head coach John Hynes told Darrin Bauming of NHL.com.

At 3.25 goals per game this year, the Preds have been one of the NHL's elite offensively.

Incredibly, they've done so by committee, with many of the team's talented young forwards having down years. But with 11 players with 20 or more points, the Preds truly are getting contributions from all four lines.

However, the biggest impact has come from the blueline, where all-star defenceman Roman Josi is having a season for the ages. The 29-year-old has put the team on his back, and enters tonight's game only goal away from his career high of 15, with 30 games left. That,
and his 51 points have him on pace crush his previous career best by nearly 20 points.

In Tuesday's win over the Jets, Josi played a game-high 26:23 and fired seven shots on goal.

In the absence of Ryan Ellis - who suffered an upper-body injury during the Winter Classic back on Jan. 1 - Josi has averaged 27:21 of ice time, topping out at 31:14 on Jan. 5 against the Anaheim Ducks.  

 

3. US VS. THEM

Remember when…?

It was back on Halloween night when Matthew Tkachuk did the impossible.

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.

What better way to cap one of the great comebacks in franchise history?

 

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 stops in the win.

Lindholm's cousin, Calle Jarnkrok, had two goals for the Predators, and Rinne came up with 21 saves in a losing effort.

 

Video: Tkachuk, Flames rally past Predators in overtime

 

This is the second of three meetings between these two teams, and the only one to be played at the Scotiabank Saddledome this year. The teams will close out the season series on Feb. 27 in Nashville.

The Flames are 6-4-0 in their last 10 regular-season meetings and hold an all-time record of 37-32-4-2 the Preds, including a 18-13-3-2 mark at home.

 

4. THIS, THAT & THE OTHER

THIS: Matthew Tkachuk, Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau all average a point-per-game or more against the Predators in their careers. Tkachuk has 11 points in nine games, Monahan has 19 points in 19 games and Gaudreau has 23 points in 16 games. … THAT: Elias Lindholm picked up an assist on Tuesday to extend his point streak to four games (2G, 2A in that span). Lindholm leads the Flames with 22 goals this year - 10 of which have come at the Scotiabank Saddledome. Lindholm needs only seven helpers to reach 200 in his career (124 with Carolina; 69 with Calgary). … THE OTHER: With his goal on Tuesday, Gaudreau now has 429 career points, and is now tied with Hakan Loob for the ninth-most points in franchise history. The 26-year-old has four points (1G, 3A) in the last four games.

 

Video: SJS@CGY: Gaudreau slams in Lindholm's pass for PPG

 

5. PLAYERS TO WATCH

Flames - Rasmus Andersson

With Mark Giordano possibly out with injury, every D man will have to step up and elevate his game.

Andersson, though, looks ready for the heavier workload. On Tuesday, the 23-year-old played north of 22 minutes for only the fifth time this year, and the results were exceptional. Andersson led all skaters (excluding Giordano) with a 79.17% (19-5) share of the even-strength shot attempts, an 81.82% (9-2) split of the scoring chances, and an 80% (4-1) grade of the high-danger looks.

Predators - Filip Forsberg

The 25-year-old enters the night without a point in two straight, but his 18 goals are tops on the Preds.

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