SaltWire's Ask a Journalist: You have questions, let's find some ...
What you need to know about COVID-19: May 29
The latest on Nova Scotia's mass shooting
Visit SaltWire.com for more of the stories you want.
The latest weather columns and browse beautiful photos from Cindy Day
SaltWire's cartoonists bring heart and humour to the news.
NOW Atlantic: Smart thinking for a changing world
Nashville Predators goaltender Juuse Saros tracks the puck in front of Calgary Flames forward Sean Monahan in NHL action at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary on Saturday December 8, 2018. Gavin Young/Postmedia
Calgary Flames Mark Giordano during warm-up before facing the Montreal Canadiens during NHL hockey in Calgary on Thursday December 19, 2019. Al Charest / Postmedia
Calgary Flames (33-25-6) at Nashville Predators (31-23-8)
6 p.m. MT, Bridgestone Arena, Sportsnet West/Sportsnet 960 The Fan
THE BIG MATCHUP
Flames D Erik Gustafsson vs. Predators penalty-kill
Deadline-day acquisition Erik Gustafsson made a positive first impression in the Flaming C, logging a team-high 21 minutes of ice-time and collecting an assist in Tuesday’s triumph in Boston. The 27-year-old — pried away from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for a third-round pick — is getting a crack at quarterbacking Calgary’s top power-play unit. He showed hints of chemistry with his new PP1 pals on what turned out to be the game-winning tally, funnelling a pass to Matthew Tkachuk on the right flank and then watching as No. 19 dished to Sean Monahan for a nifty redirect. The Predators have the NHL’s worst penalty-kill stats, and Gustafsson & Co. will try to add to those short-handed struggles.
FIVE STORYLINES FOR THE GAME
The Flames certainly had the look of a could-be contender in Tuesday’s 5-2 road victory over the Boston Bruins , who sit atop the overall standings and have suffered just three regulation losses at TD Garden so far this season. Sean Monahan scored twice in the second, Mikael Backlund potted a pair in the third and David Rittich was superb from start to finish in the crease as the crew from Calgary continued to pile up points on the road. They’re now 19-13-2 in enemy territory.
READY TO GO, GIO?
There’s a good chance Flames captain Mark Giordano will return to the lineup against the Predators. The workhorse defenceman was close — close enough to be considered a game-time decision — to lacing ’em up in Boston, but you can’t blame the Flames for being extra cautious with such an important piece. Giordano has now missed 10 consecutive contests due to a hamstring injury. If the 36-year-old is green-lighted in Nashville, expect to see him skating alongside TJ Brodie on the top pair.
With Tuesday’s 3-2 home victory over the Ottawa Senators, the Predators climbed into a playoff spot for the first time since mid-November. They’re two points back of the Flames, with both currently sitting in wildcard berths. So yeah, Thursday’s battle is a biggie. “Things are looking up in this dressing room right now, and guys are starting to work harder,” said Predators defenceman Ryan Ellis. “Like we say — ‘Embrace the grind.’ I think we are on the right path.”
With his first lamp-lighting against the Bruins, Monahan ascended to the 20-goal threshold for the seventh consecutive season — that’s each and every one of ’em for the 25-year-old centre. In fact, Monahan is the first marksman in Flames’ franchise history to bury 20-plus in his first seven winters in the NHL. In Calgary’s club lore, Jarome Iginla (13), Theo Fleury (10) and Joe Nieuwendyk (8) are the only guys to string together more 20-goal campaigns at any point in their careers.
THIS N’ THAT
Predators netminder Pekka Rinne didn’t even dress against the Senators due to illness, but he was one of three puck-stoppers on the ice for Wednesday’s practice … The Flames and Predators have split a pair of meetings so far this season, with the road team prevailing in both. It was at Bridgestone Arena, remember, that Calgary’s Matthew Tkachuk scored that between-the-legs beauty to lift his squad to an overtime victory on Halloween night.
FLAMES’ PROJECTED LINEUP
Johnny Gaudreau – Sean Monahan – Elias Lindholm
Andrew Mangiapane – Mikael Backlund – Matthew Tkachuk
Milan Lucic – Derek Ryan – Dillon Dube
Sam Bennett – Mark Jankowski – Tobias Rieder
Mark Giordano – TJ Brodie
Noah Hanifin – Rasmus Andersson
Derek Forbort – Erik Gustafsson
Mikael Granlund – Ryan Johansen – Viktor Arvidsson
Filip Forsberg – Matt Duchene – Kyle Turris
Rocco Grimaldi – Nick Bonino – Craig Smith
Calle Jarnkrok – Colton Sissons – Colin Blackwell
Roman Josi – Ryan Ellis
Mattias Ekholm – Dante Fabbro
Jarred Tinordi – Yannick Weber
Flames — D Mark Giordano (hamstring), D Travis Hamonic (upper body), D Juuso Valimaki (knee)
Predators — G Pekka Rinne (illness)
Power play (prior to Wednesday’s action)
Flames: 20.1% (37-for-184, T-17th)
Predators: 16.7% (34-for-204, 24th)
Penalty kill (prior to Wednesday’s action)
Flames: 82.4% (7th)
Predators: 74.1% (31st)
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020