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Calgary Flames vs. Nashville Predators

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GAME: Calgary Flames (35-26-6-3) at Nashville Predators (33-26-9-2).

TIME: Saturday, 8 p.m. EST.

The Calgary Flames haven't been to the playoffs in eight years. The Nashville Predators have never made the postseason in their six-year history.

Both teams will be looking to improve their respective playoff positions when they meet in a key Western Conference matchup.

With 12 games left in the regular season, Calgary is sixth in the West - three points behind Dallas and two ahead of Nashville and Los Angeles. St. Louis is also involved in the race, sitting one point behind the final playoff spot.

The Flames took another step toward their first playoff appearance since 1995-96 with a 4-2 victory over visiting Ottawa on Thursday.

Marcus Nilson scored twice and Ville Nieminen's goal midway through the third period snapped a tie as Calgary improved to 2-0-1 following consecutive road losses to Detroit and Dallas.

Nilson was playing in his second game with the Flames after he was acquired from Florida on Monday. Nieminen - acquired from Chicago on Feb. 24 - has goals in back-to-back games after going nearly three months without scoring.

"Two weeks ago when I got traded, I felt like I had been called up so it's my job to bring some excitement," Nieminen said.

No NHL team has a longer postseason drought than the Flames, on pace for their first winning season since 1994-95.

"We've come a long way right now and we're so close, we've just got to keep going to the very end," Calgary's Krzysztof Oliwa said.

Goalie Miikka Kiprusoff is one of the main reasons for Calgary's success this season, but backup Roman Turek is 11-5-2 with a 1.54 goals-against average and five shutouts in 18 career starts against the Predators. Turek was in net for a 4-0 win over Nashville on Jan. 22.

The Predators, in their sixth NHL season, skated to a 1-1 tie at St. Louis on Thursday.

Tomas Vokoun made 28 saves and Kimmo Timonen scored on the power play in the first period, leaving the Predators with one win in six games this month (1-3-2).

"This was a big game for us," Vokoun said. "We've got to keep going like this. It's not going to be easy. We've just got to do it - there's no other way."

Nashville's Scott Sullivan failed to record a point for just the fourth time in 15 games since joining the team in a trade with Chicago. He has nine goals and 12 assists for the Predators.

STANDINGS (through March 11): Flames - 79 points, 3rd place, 10 PB, Northwest Division. Predators - 77 points, 2nd place, 15 PB, Central Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Flames - Jarome Iginla, 35 goals and 62 points; Craig Conroy, 32 assists; Chris Simon, 227 PIM. Predators - Sullivan, 23 goals, 39 assists and 62 points; Jordin Tootoo, 127 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through March 11): Flames - Power play: 15.3 percent (48 for 314), 21st in NHL. Penalty killing: 83.7 percent (251 for 300), 19th. Predators - Power play: 17.8 percent (66 for 370), 8th. Penalty killing: 82.0 percent (259 for 316), 24th.

GOALTENDERS: Flames - Kiprusoff (19-7-3, 2 SO, 1.64 GAA); Turek (4-10-0, 1, 2.68). Predators - Vokoun (30-24-8, 3, 2.53); Chris Mason (3-4-1, 1, 2.28).

SEASON SERIES: 1-1-0.

LAST MEETING: Jan. 22; Flames, 4-0. At Calgary, Alberta, Turek stopped 23 shots for his 25th career shutout, and Shean Donovan and Matthew Lombardi each scored twice.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Flames - 17-14-1-2 on the road; Predators - 21-8-6-1 at home.


Associated Press
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