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Game Day: Preds vs. Flames

by Thomas Willis & Brooks Bratten / Nashville Predators

(34-21-12) Nashville Predators vs. Calgary Flames (27-34-5)
  8:30 P.M. CT | Scotiabank Saddledome | #NSHvsCGY
TV: FS-TN | Radio: 102.5 The Game


The Nashville Predators continue their Canadian road swing tonight in the province of Alberta as they take on the Calgary Flames from Scotiabank Saddledome. The game starts less than 24 hours after the Preds extended their franchise-record point streak to 13 games with a 4-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets. Nashville is 9-0-4 in their last 13 outings.

Nashville has not lost in regulation since Feb. 9, 2016, with the club allowing two goals or fewer on nine occasions during the stretch, shutting out the opposition three times. During the 13-game streak, Nashville is 8-for-39 on the power play (20.5 percent) and have killed off 29-of-35 chances against (80.6 percent).

The Preds have also continued their success against teams based in Canada this season, posting a 12-1-3 record against them, or 27 of a possible 32 points in the standings (.844 points percentage). The stretch of games includes the team's 8-0-1 road record, with their only loss coming in overtime to the Winnipeg Jets.

Craig Smith tallied his 17th and 18th goals of the season on Tuesday night in Winnipeg to post his first multi-goal game of the season (and first since Feb. 17, 2015) and 10th of his career. Smith has points in five-straight games, tying a career high (5g-5a).

Colton Sissons, who was recalled on Monday from AHL Milwaukee, filled in for the injured Paul Gaustad on Tuesday and notched his second goal of the season and added an assist to register the first multi-point game of his career.

Viktor Arvidsson's team-leading eight shots on Tuesday was tied for the second-most shots in a game by a Predators rookie in franchise history. The record is nine, which is held by Filip Forsberg (Feb. 28, 2015) and Adam Hall (Jan. 1, 2003).

Forsberg leads the Preds with 28 goals and 52 points and has five points in his last two games. Defenseman Roman Josi and center Mike Ribeiro are tied for second on the club in points with 47; Ribeiro is on a four-game point streak and his 40 assists lead the team. Captain Shea Weber is fourth with 42 points, including 17 goals, followed by James Neal, who has 23 goals and 40 points on the season. Goaltender Pekka Rinne is 27-18-10; Carter Hutton owns a 7-2-2 record.

Ryan Johansen is on a three-game point streak versus the Flames (1g-2a), while Ribeiro has a point in four of his last five games against Calgary (2g-2a).

Johnny Gaudreau leads the Flames with 24 goals and 63 points, followed by Sean Monahan with 21 goals and 46 points. Captain Mark Giordano has 16 goals and 41 points from the blue line on the campaign. Jonas Hiller has a 9-10-1 record for Calgary this season; Karri Ramo is currently listed on Injured Reserve. The Flames lost 2-1 in overtime to the Sharks on Monday and are 2-6-2 in their last 10 appearances.

Tonight is the third and final meeting of the season between the Flames & Preds. The Predators are 1-0-1 against Calgary this season, and all-time, Nashville is 30-22-12 versus Calgary, including a 12-12-7 mark at Scotiabank Saddledome.

The Momentum Effect?

On Tuesday night versus the Winnipeg Jets, the Nashville Predators found themselves behind 1-0 on the scoreboard for the second-straight contest. But a few hours later when the final horn sounded, the Preds gathered around goaltender Pekka Rinne to celebrate their second consecutive comeback victory.

Colton Sissons’ attempted pass, that banked off a skate and into the Jets’ cage to cap off two goals in 11 seconds and erase Nashville’s deficit in Tuesday’s first period, can be categorized as some of the “bounces going the Preds way,” according to d-man Mattias Ekholm. The blueliner also says that it does feel like some of the deflections that were not working in his team’s favor earlier in the season are doing so now.

But is there also something larger present - call it momentum or confidence - that’s helping the Predators continue to break their franchise-record point streak (now at 13-straight contests)?

“I think so. I can only speak for myself, but I feel that way, it feels like there’s a big difference when you’re winning games with how you’re playing and how you approach it.” Ekholm said on Wednesday after the team’s pregame meeting. “Going down a goal, when you’ve been losing you get that mindset of ‘oh no, not again.’ But now it’s more, ‘Just keep going boys, we’ve got this.’ It’s just small details in hockey, small stuff that happens out there every once in awhile. Right now, I feel like those things are going our way.”

There have been a variety of players taking a starring role in the Preds month-long run without a regulation loss: Filip Forsberg’s 14 goals in 15 games, Mike Ribeiro five-game point streak and Rinne’s .944 save percentage since Feb. 18 (to name a few). Predators Head Coach Peter Laviolette says as individual players gain confidence from their success, their play - and that of their teammates around them - elevates, but hockey is still a team game, and it takes a variety of factors to win consistently.

“Because you find success, you gain confidence,” Laviolette said. “Maybe that’s the result of say, Filip gets in a groove and starts scoring goals, he becomes more confident. But we don’t talk about it and say, ‘Let’s get Filip the puck more.’ We don’t talk about those kind of things, those things are the result of the way we’re playing, how hard we’re playing and the confidence we’re playing with. Because of that, good things can happen.”

The Predators will try to carry over their current momentum into tonight’s third and final meeting of the season with the Flames. Nashville last claimed a 2-1 victory in Alberta in January by shutting down the Flames speedy attack, something they’ll look to do again, said Ekholm.

“They have a talented forward group, especially with some high-end guys on their first line,” Ekholm said. “They have a few really skilled defensemen that want to join the rush, and we have to make sure we're on the right side of things, and not give up too many odd-man rushes. I think those are the biggest keys again.”


Projected Lineups:

Nashville Predators:

The Predators did hold not a morning skate on Wednesday, the below lineup is the one the club used yesterday versus the Jets.


Forwards
Calle Jarnkrok Ryan Johansen James Neal
Filip Forsberg Mike Ribeiro Craig Smith
Miikka Salomaki Mike Fisher Viktor Arvidsson
Colin Wilson Colton Sissons Austin Watson
Defense
Roman Josi Shea Weber
Anthony Bitetto Ryan Ellis
Mattias Ekholm Petter Granberg

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Goaltenders: The Preds have not annouced a starting goaltender for tonight's game yet. Netminder Pekka Rinne made 23 saves in a 4-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday night.

Extra: (D) Barret Jackman, (F) Paul Gaustad (upper-body), (F) Gabriel Bourque (IR; upper-body), (F) Eric Nystrom (IR; lower-body)


Calgary Flames:

Forwards
Johnny Gaudreau Sean Monahan Michael Frolik
Lance Bouma Sam Bennett Joe Colborne
Micheal Ferland Mikael Backlund Garnet Hathaway
Brandon Bollig Matt Stajan Josh Jooris
Defense
Mark Giordano Deryk Engelland
TJ Brodie Dougie Hamilton
Jyrki Jokipakka Jakub Nakladal

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Goaltenders: Jonas Hiller is the projected starter in net with Joni Ortio serving as the backup.

Extra: (G) Karri Ramo, (D) Ladislav Smid, (D) Dennis Wideman, (D) Tyler Wotherspoon

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