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Flames' Agostino to make NHL debut vs. Predators

by Brian Hunter

PREDATORS (29-31-10) at FLAMES (28-34-7)


Last 10: Nashville 3-7-0; Calgary 6-4-0

Season series: This is the third and final game between the Nashville Predators and Calgary Flames. The home team has won each of the first two. Ryan Ellis and Craig Smith scored 1:45 apart early in the third period as the Predators claimed a 4-2 win in Nashville on Jan. 14. Ten days later, Sean Monahan scored in the shootout as the Flames overcame a four-goal game by Eric Nystrom for a 5-4 victory in Calgary.

Big story: Flames rookie Kenny Agostino is expected to make his NHL debut. One of the key pieces obtained a year ago in the trade that sent franchise icon Jarome Iginla to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the 21-year-old forward scored 56 goals and had 76 assists in his four-year career at Yale University, which just concluded. Agostino signed his entry-level NHL contract on Monday.

"There are [13] games left, and I've only played 30 this year, so that'll be something I have to get my body to adapt to, and keep a proper diet while I'm here," Agostino said in the Calgary Herald.

Team Scope:

Predators: It's been a month of streaks for Nashville, which sandwiched three straight wins between a four-game skid to begin March and now three consecutive defeats heading into Friday. The Predators would have to climb over five teams in order to get into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and with 12 games remaining that looks increasingly unlikely.

The Predators' 164 non-shootout goals this season are fewest in the Western Conference and better only than the Buffalo Sabres (127). The offense has dried up again during the current losing streak, with the Predators getting shut out for the ninth time this season in a 2-0 loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday. They recalled forward Calle Jarnkrok, acquired from the Detroit Red Wings in the David Legwand trade. Jarnkrok had five goals in five American Hockey League games since the trade.

"We have to find a way to score. We're going to have to if we want to win," captain Shea Weber said in the Tennessean. "We can't rely on our goalies to blank the other teams every night."

Flames: Agostino figures to acclimate quickly with a Calgary team that continues to get younger as the season goes along. And the kids are contributing as the Flames have won three of their past four.

Monahan, the sixth pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, is second on the team in goals (19) and fifth in points (31). Goalie Joni Ortio has split his first eight starts, posting a stellar 2.16 goals-against average. Defenseman Tyler Wotherspoon and forward Ben Hanowski, the latter also part of the return in the Iginla trade, have also made the climb recently from the AHL and acquitted themselves nicely.

"It's important because it's an audition," coach Bob Hartley said. "It's a great audition for them. Right now, we're playing teams that they're fighting for a playoff spot; they're fighting to get a better spot in the top-eight. We're living a playoff atmosphere. They might not feel the pressure, but still the games mean something. I think it's great for our learning process."

Who's hot: Flames forward Mike Cammalleri has five goals and two assists during a five-game point streak. Forward Paul Byron has two goals and two assists in his past four games. Forward Mikael Backlund has three goals and three assists in his past five games.

Injury report: Nashville forward Paul Gaustad (upper body) left the game Wednesday and is day-to-day. … Calgary forward Jiri Hudler (upper body), who last played March 5, will return. Goalie Karri Ramo (knee), defenseman Dennis Wideman (upper body) and forwards David Jones (shoulder) and Markus Granlund (upper body) are sidelined.

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