Saturday, December 19, 2009

Game Preview: Preds Meet Flames Wanting Revenge

The Nashville Predators (21-11-3) seek revenge for an embarrassing loss last month against the Calgary Flames (20-10-4) in an early 3 p.m. CST game at the Saddledome in Calgary.

The Flames beat the Preds in their only other meeting this season 5-0 in what was possibly one of the most lackadaisical showings by the Predators all season. After surviving the first 20 minutes, the floodgates opened and the Flames never looked back.

The Calgary press indicated that it was the most complete game that he Flames had played up to that point in the season. The Flames scored twice on the power play and got a short handed empty netter with four minutes left in the game. Mikka Kiprusoff had an outstanding game stopping all 22 Predator shots and received first star of the game honors.

In most statistical categories, Calgary has an advantage over the Predators. On the power play Calgary is 19th (18.2%) while the Preds are 26th (16.7). On the penalty kill the Preds are 29th (76.5%) while the Flames are 14th (82.1%). The Preds do have an advantage in face offs 49.9% to 45.7% where the Flames are in last place in the NHL.

The Predators have been on a run lately going 5-0-1 in their last six games, capped off by Thursday's come from behind 6-3 victory over the Oilers. Ryan Jones bring a four game goal streak into the game while Patric Hornqvist has four goals in his last three games.

The Flames won their last game against the L.A. Kings on Thursday by a 2-1 margin. While still leading the Northwest Division, the Flames have cooled a bit lately going 3-4-1 in December since their last game with the Preds.

Likewise, the Flame's big stud, Jerome Iginla, has zero goals and five assist for the month. Unfortunately for the Preds, Iginla likes playing day games and had a hat trick in his last one against the Kings last month.

Mikka Kiprusoff (18-8-4, 2.14, .930) will start in net for the Flames and the Nashville goalkeeper has not been announced. With a good outing in relief on Thursday, and Pekka Rinne (14-6-2, 2.75, .905) reportedly a bit under the weather, I would think that Dan Ellis (7-5-1, 2.65, .911) may get the call.

Predator's Keys To The Game

Preds Need a Quick Start...

After finding a higher level of play after going down 2-0 in their last game against Edmonton, the Preds need to start with that higher level of intensity from the beginning of the game. No slight to Edmonton, but the Flames are an elite team in the Western Conference and can not be trifled with. When the Preds went down 3-0 against Calgary in Nashville Barry Trotz called it "game, set, match."

Focus on Special Teams...

In their last outing against the Flames the Predators were horrible on the penalty kill giving up two goals on two opportunities to a star studded group that is always dangerous. At the same time the Preds were 0-3 on the power play and gave up a short handed goal to boot. Overall, the Preds managed only 22 shots on goal for the game. The Predators simply cannot expect to remain at the top of the conference standing with out improvement on special teams.

Remember How The Last Loss To Calgary Felt...

In the locker room after the 5-0 loss to Calgary three weeks ago, there were no happy faces. The Predators do not want to come away from this game today questioning their effort or talking about not getting their feet moving. Without getting too worked up over a "revenge" factor, it would be helpful if they did have a little extra motivation to pay back Calgary on the their home ice for the Preds loss in Nashville.

Up Next...

The Preds play Tuesday night in Vancouver to close out the pre-Christmas schedule before taking three days off. It doesn't get any easier after the break as the Preds come back with a home and away with the Chicago Blackhawks next weekend.


In Pred Nation...

John Glennon has a story about Ryan Jones and a game at a glance at the Tennessean.

Dirk the Forechecker has a note about the Sports Authority assigning a liaison to deal with the Predators. I agree with Dirk that this is a positive thing. Dirk also crunches numbers to discuss the current Preds scoring surge and whether or not it is sustainable. He also has his game preview up here.

Point 2 Point has a look at today's game too.

The week is never complete without Mark's View.

New blogger Preds 101 has a great analysis of Ryan Jones' goal against the Oilers. This is better than Terry Crisp.

NHL Hot Stove takes a look at the Pred's injuries so far this year. I'm not sure who Ryan Wilson is. Maybe it's Collin's evil twin.

The great authority on sports, Forbes, has the Pens rated as the NHL's best fans. Jim Diamond points out that the Preds are # 26.

By the way, the Preds are up to a 72% chance of making the playoffs at SportsClubStats, a level that was never reached last season.

Around the NHL...

Something you never have thought of is a team losing all its equipment by a truck fire. It happened to the Wild in Ottawa.

Here's a geeky story about the technology that drives the NHL web sites.

More Later...

Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass