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Flames-Preds: From the morning skate

by Torie Peterson / Calgary Flames

CALGARY, AB -- With Brendan Morrison sidelined with a knee injury, the Flames are down to three natural pivots. On Friday afternoon, Mikael Backlund was stricken with the flu and unable to play that night against Columbus. That won't be the case tonight.

"I feel better today, a lot better than I did Friday afternoon. I'm excited to play again," Backlund said after the pregame skate. "Of course with Mo out, we need our centers to step up and play better."

Head coach Brent Sutter has never been shy to mix up his lines so it's likely Backlund will play with at least two different sets of wingers tonight. The potential of having different linemates each shift isn't something that bothers the young forward. Instead, he relishes the opportunity.

"You can't really focus on who you're playing with. You've got to focus, just on the next shift and go out and play the same game. It doesn't matter who you're playing with, go out and play hard."

The Flames have squared off against the Preds three times this season, winning all three games. The season series has been defined by tight games, with two out of the three being decided by a single goal, and defenceman Robyn Regehr believes it'll likely be another close game tonight.

"They were hard fought games, ones that came down to a change here or a chance there," he stated. "We've been able to capitalize on those and ended up winning games.

"They're a quick team. They're a skilled team up front. They've got a pretty dangerous power play with a couple big shots on the point. For us, we've got to remember how we played when we beat them and continue to do that."

After a spectacular outing against the Blue Jackets on Friday night, Miikka Kiprusoff will once again be called upon to aid his club against the Nashville Predators.

"Nothing's going to change," Sutter said on Saturday. "We're in a mode of playoff hockey obviously. We're riding our number one guy."

Sunday's game will mark Kiprusoff's 20th straight start in net. It may seem like a heavy workload but the Finn showed no signs of weariness when asked if he was tired.

"I feel alright," he smiled after Friday's win. "It's been a lot of games. It's kind of one game at a time."

Kiprusoff's teammate Mark Giordano brushed off any notion that the team was worried about the netminder.

"Everyone says the tired thing about Miikka," he said. "But I don't think so. He takes care of himself. He's always in the gym stretching, getting treatment and massages and stuff like that. The bottom line is that we need him in net because we need to win these important games. We're in a huge battle."

The final period of the Flames win over the Blue Jackets could be described as chaotic. While he has the utmost faith in his netminder, forward Olli Jokinen was quick to say that the Flames need to be better in their own end if they want to come out with the two points tonight.

"We don't want Kipper to face 40+ shots every night so we need play a little bit tighter defence. We have to be ready to win the game 1-0, whatever it takes. It's low scoring games usually against this team so we have to be prepared to play good defence."

Expected forward lines:

Tanguay - Moss - Iginla
Glencross - Jokinen - Bourque
Hagman - Stajan - Jackman
Kostopoulos - Backlund - Modin

Expected defence pairings:

Regehr - Bouwmeester
Giordano - Sarich
Staios - Babchuk
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