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Nashville Predators vs. Calgary Flames

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GAME: Nashville Predators (33-27-11-3) at Calgary Flames (38-26-7-3).

TIME: Saturday, 10 p.m. EST.

After missing the NHL playoffs in each of the previous seven seasons - the longest current drought in the league - the Calgary Flames are anxious not only to return to the postseason, but also make an impact when they get there.

The Flames will try to tighten their grip on a playoff spot and extend their season-high seven-game unbeaten streak as they host the Nashville Predators.

Out of a playoff spot just a few weeks ago, the Flames have used a 5-0-2 run to climb into sixth place in the Western Conference, just three points behind fourth-place Vancouver.

"It was a big win again," Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff said after stopping 23 shots. "Sometimes it's hard to come back off a road trip and play well at home but we did great, and it was a huge two points."

Kiprusoff recorded his third shutout this season and sixth of his career while improving to 21-7-4 and lowering his NHL-best goals-against average to 1.63.

The Flames are on their longest unbeaten streak since a 10-game run early in the 2001-02 season.

"We have to go into every game with that same mentality - getting those two points," Calgary center Matthew Lombardi said. "It doesn't matter who we're playing. It's us in the end and we've got to dictate where we want to be at the end of the season."

Calgary, which is 12 games above .500 for the first time since the end of the 1993-94 season, has not lost since a 5-1 setback at Dallas on March 5. The Flames are 3-0-1 in their last four home games.

The Predators are eighth in the West, just one point in front of Los Angeles for the final playoff spot. They didn't help their cause on Friday, suffering a 5-4 loss to Edmonton, which is a point behind the Kings.

Nashville is winless in its last eight games (0-3-3-1), jeopardizing the sixth-year franchise's chances of its first playoff berth.

STANDINGS: Predators - 80 points, 3rd place, 17 PB, Central Division. Flames - 86 points, 3rd place, 7 PB, Northwest Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Predators - Steve Sullivan, 23 goals, 42 assists and 65 points; Jordin Tootoo, 127 PIM. Flames - Jarome Iginla, 37 goals and 65 points; Craig Conroy, 36 assists; Chris Simon, 227 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through March 18): Predators - Power play: 18.0 percent (69 for 383), 8th in NHL. Penalty killing: 82.2 percent (277 for 325), 22nd. Flames - Power play: 14.9 percent (48 for 323), 23rd. Penalty killing: 84.1 percent (269 for 320), 14th.

GOALTENDERS: Predators - Tomas Vokoun (30-25-10, 3 SO, 2.55 GAA); Chris Mason (3-4-1, 1, 2.28). Flames - Kiprusoff (21-7-4, 3, 1.64); Roman Turek (5-10-0, 2, 2.50).

SEASON SERIES: Even, 1-1-1.

LAST MEETING: March 13; Tie, 4-4. At Nashville, Iginla scored the equalizer 31 seconds into the third period for Calgary, which got 28 saves from Kiprusoff. The Flames rallied from an early 3-1 deficit.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Predators - 12-19-4-2 on the road; Flames - 19-12-5-1 at home.


Associated Press
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