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Flames-Preds preview

by Staff Writer / Calgary Flames

PREDATORS (27-15-6) at FLAMES (22-21-6)


Last 10: Nashville 8-2-0; Calgary 4-3-3.

From the morning skate:

The Flames took to the ice at the Saddledome on Monday morning as they get ready to host the Nashville Predators Monday night. The lines looked very similar to Saturday's lines in Vancouver. The only change appeared to be that Ales Kotalik was the extra forward and Tom Kostopoulos was on the fourth line with Mikael Backlund and Tim Jackman. Miikka Kiprusoff will get the call between the pipes again tonight.

The Nashville Predators have won their last three games and are 8-2-0 in their last 10 games. They are known to be a disciplined team that always stick to the same game plan. They are sitting in fourth spot in the Western Conference with 60 points.

"You look at how they do it," said Coach Brent Sutter. "I know they have some good players but they've never had the elite elite elite star player. They go about their business and they are very solid guys. You look at their back end with (Shea) Webber and (Ryan) Suter, those are two pretty elite class defencemen and yet they're not talked about. It's probably because where they're at as far as playing. You look at their goaltending, they are getting key goaltending now. They trust what's there. They trust the system, they trust what's put in place by the coaches. They have success with it.

"To beat them you have to play their way. You have to play that team game and yet you have to do certain things against them to have success."

Season series: This is the second of four games between these two clubs. Calgary claimed victory 1-0 in overtime on Oct. 19 with the game-winning tally from Rene Bourque and 34 saves by Miikka Kiprusoff. Nashville and Calgary split the 2009-10 season series with each club sweeping the respective road series.

Big story: Both clubs have been playing improved hockey recently as the Preds have won three in a row and the Flames will aim to win their third straight overall. Nashville also continues its first of two trips through Western Canada this season, concluding in Vancouver on Wednesday.

Team Scope:

Predators: It required a shootout, but Nashville made it three in a row with Sunday night's 3-2 shootout victory at Edmonton. Cody Franson tallied the winner in the breakaway competition and added two assists during regulation time to lead the Preds to their eighth win in 10 games.

Still, Preds coach Barry Trotz was less than thrilled with his club's performance.

"I didn't like the way we played," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "I had a feeling we'd be a little bit sloppy with three games in four nights before we got to this one. We got through the first period but as the game went on we turned way too many pucks over.

"I don't take anything away from the Oilers but we could have been a little bit firmer in a lot of areas in our game."

Flames: Currently sitting in 15th place in the Western Conference with 50 points, the Flames are still very much in the race. Although Calgary would have to leap over six competing teams to currently claim the eight spot in the West, there is only a five-point difference between the Flames and the San Jose Sharks at the moment.

To get back into the post-season mix, Calgary must continue cranking out strong offensive showings like it has had in the last two games with a 4-3 shootout win over the West's first-place Vancouver Canucks on Saturday and a convincing 7-4 victory against the Pacific-leading Dallas Stars this past Friday.

Who's hot: With two more assists Sunday night, Franson now has 5 points in his last 4 games. … Flames captain Jarome Iginla has reached the scoresheet in six of his last eight games for the Flames, tallying 10 points (4 goals, 6 assists) over that span.

Injury report: Predators forward Marek Svatos has been sidelined with a lower-body injury. Steve Sullivan (lower-body) is on IR and Francis Bouillon (upper-body) is listed as day-to-day. For Calgary, defenseman Steve Staios (upper body) and forwards Daymond Langkow (neck) and Raitis Ivanans (concussion) are on injured reserve.

Stat pack: Goalie Pekka Rinne's superb play this season is a big reason why the Preds lead the Western Conference this season with a 2.08 goals-against average.

Puck drop: Most of the Flames are aware that making the playoffs this season is going to be tough. Still, some of the veterans are committed to staying focused on what it will take to achieve that goal.

"There's too many teams involved for that last playoff spot," said forward Alex Tanguay, who notched the shootout winner vs. Vancouver on Saturday. "So we said from December 23 it's going to take four points out of every six. That's been our mindset, and we've been pretty successful since."

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