The Calgary Flames kicked off a three game home stand on Tuesday night with an impressive 5-2 victory over the Florida Panthers. It was the type of game the Flames needed after a disappointing weekend where they picked up just one of a possible four points in losses to New Jersey and Edmonton. Now the team has an extremely important game with a team right behind them in the standings as Calgary plays host to the Nashville Predators tonight (7 pm, Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960).
Calgary Flames 24-20-3, 4th Pacific Division
For the first time in his NHL career, Sam Bennett will sit out tonight’s game as a healthy scratch. Head coach Glen Gulutzan said Bennett hasn’t been as good as he needs to be of late and needs to take a seat as a result. It’s been a rough stretch for Bennett as the 2014 fourth overall pick has gone without a point in ten straight games. Without Bennett tonight, the Flames will move Stajan into his spot on the third line, move Freddie Hamilton to centre on the fourth line while Ferland will return to the lineup after missing three games with a lower body injury.
For a sixth time in seven games, Chad Johnson will get the start in net for Calgary tonight. Johnson allowed two goals on three shots to start Tuesday’s game against the Panthers before settling down and not letting anything in the rest of the way. Johnson has gotten the bulk of the workload in recent weeks and has certainly given the Flames a chance to win. On the season, Johnson now sits 16-10-1 with a 2.24 goals against average and a 0.923 save percentage.
Tuesday’s win over Florida was an impressive one and the Flames were lead by their top line once again. Powered by a pair of Backlund goals 13 seconds apart, Calgary blew the game open in the second period and never looked back as Calgary got another stellar night from their top trio. Backlund, Tkachuk, and Frolik combined for seven points and continue to carry the bulk of the offensive load. The 3M Line, as they’ve been coined, has turned into one of the league’s most effective and most productive trios and doesn’t look to be going anywhere anytime soon.
Helping the top line out on Tuesday were a pair of players who need to keep on chipping in with regular offence. Monahan extended his goal scoring streak to three games and also added an assist in the win while Giordano had just his fourth career three point game. Giordano finished the night with a goal and three points and snapped a ten game goalless drought himself. Now, the Flames just need Gaudreau to find his offensive touch to really have things clicking on all cylinders; Gaudreau has just three points in his last ten games.
Nashville Predators 20-17-7, 4th Central Division
It’s been an up and down season for Nashville which currently sees them on the outside looking in on the Western Conference playoff race. With wins in three of their last four, this is an important game for the Predators. A win this evening would vault them over Los Angeles into the final wildcard spot in the West and would also move them within two points of the Flames. The big advantage Nashville has on Calgary is their games played; a win tonight would trim the margin for the Preds while still having three games in hand. Nashville stumbled Tuesday night in game two of their current road trip as they fell 1-0 at the hands of the Vancouver Canucks.
Once again, the Preds look like they’ll be without their top two defencemen tonight who just happen to be two of the best in the NHL. PK Subban looks like he’ll miss his 16th straight game with an upper body injury while Roman Josi will miss a third game in a row, also with an upper body injury. To be without those two players is about as devastating as it gets on the injury front, but on the bright side, Subban should be returning to the lineup soon. Josi’s injury status is a little bit more up in the air.
Juuse Saros was the first goalie off the ice for Nashville this morning so it looks like he’ll get the start in net. It’s been a pretty nice first full season with the Predators for Saros as he’ll make his ninth start between the pipes tonight. Saros is 4-3-1 on the year with a 1.25 goals against average and a pretty sparkling 0.957 save percentage.