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Preview: Predators at Flames

Nashville looks to close gap in Western Conference; forward Sam Bennett will be healthy scratch for Calgary

by Aaron Vickers / Correspondent

PREDATORS (20-17-7) at FLAMES (24-20-3)

9 p.m. ET; SNW, FS-TN, NHL.TV


Predators team scope

The Nashville Predators are taking a postseason approach to their game against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome. The Predators trail the Flames by four points for the first wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference, with three games at hand. "Certainly we know where Calgary's at and we know how many points are at stake and what the swing is," coach Peter Laviolette said, "and we know the games in hand and realize how important this game is. Maybe it's even more desperate for us because they're in the better spot with regards to the points right now." The Predators, who have won three of their past four games, also trail the Los Angeles Kings by one point for the second wild card with one game at hand. "There's still a bunch of teams in the thick of things and we're one of them," defenseman Ryan Ellis said. "Tonight there's a big emphasis on how big this game is." Juuse Saros was the first goaltender off the ice for the Predators and could start. He is 4-3-1 with a 1.25 goals-against average and .957 save percentage in eight games this season. "He's been great for us," Ellis said. "[No. 1 goaltender Pekka Rinne] has been great for us. Every team relies a lot on goaltending, and if we're going to do anything this year we're going to have to have good goaltending."


Flames team scope

Forward Sam Bennett will be a healthy scratch for the Flames. Bennett, the No. 4 pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, has no points in his past 10 games, and two goals in his past 16 games. "Sometimes it's good for a young guy, a 20-year-old, to just sit and watch a game and get a little bit of a break and come back in and be better for it," coach Glen Gulutzan said. Bennett has 18 points (nine goals, nine assists) and 49 penalty minutes in 47 games this season. "You can't have growth without adversity … true growth anyway," Gulutzan said. "With his competitive nature he'll grow from this experience. He might not like it, but he'll grow from this experience." Bennett will sit with the return of forward Micheal Ferland, who has missed the past three games because of a lower-body injury. Ferland leads Calgary with 87 hits this season. "He's ready now," Gulutzan said. Goaltender Chad Johnson will start for the Flames, who are 5-1-0 in their past six home games. "You have to really refocus every day for every opponent," said Johnson, 16-10-1 with a 2.24 GAA and .923 SV% this season. "If you do that, you're going to have consistent success. I feel good about my game. You want to put your team in a position to win hockey games. As a group, we're playing well."


Predators projected lineup

Filip Forsberg -- Ryan Johansen -- Viktor Arvidsson

Colton Sissons -- Mike Fisher -- Austin Watson

Calle Jarnkrok -- Mike Ribeiro -- James Neal

Harry Zolnierczyk -- Derek Grant -- Cody McLeod

Mattias Ekholm -- Yannick Weber

Matt Irwin -- Ryan Ellis

Anthony Bitetto -- Alexandre Carrier

Juuse Saros

Pekka Rinne

Scratched: Craig Smith, Brad Hunt

Injured: Petter Granberg (undisclosed), Roman Josi (upper body), Miikka Salomaki (lower body), P.K. Subban (upper body), Colin Wilson (lower body)


Flames projected lineup

Kris Versteeg -- Sean Monahan -- Troy Brouwer

Matthew Tkachuk -- Mikael Backlund -- Michael Frolik

Johnny Gaudreau -- Matt Stajan -- Alex Chiasson

Lance Bouma -- Freddie Hamilton -- Micheal Ferland

Mark Giordano -- Dougie Hamilton

TJ Brodie -- Dennis Wideman

Jyrki Jokipakka -- Deryk Engelland

Chad Johnson

Brian Elliott

Scratched: Brett Kulak, Sam Bennett

Injured: Garnet Hathaway (upper body)


Status report

Each team held an optional morning skate Thursday. Subban is expected to miss his 16th straight game. Hathaway remains day to day.


Who's hot 

Fisher is one assist from 300 in his NHL career. … Backlund has five points (two goals, three assists) in his past four games. … Monahan has four points (three goals, one assist) in a three-game point streak.

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