Preview: Flames vs. Predators
FLAMES (18-16-5) at PREDATORS (20-14-4)
TV: NHLN-US, SNET-CGY (HD), FS-TN
Last 10: Calgary 4-3-3; Nashville 7-3-0
Season Series: Sunday's game marks the final of four season meetings between Calgary and Nashville. The teams split early-season matchups in Calgary, but Nashville took a 2-1 season series lead with a 2-1 win at Bridgestone Arena on Dec. 13. The win ended a stretch of six straight home losses to the Flames, thanks in large part to a third-period winner from Colin Wilson.
Big Story: Calgary and Nashville open the 2012 NHL schedule with this New Year's Day encounter. Calgary continues its season-long, seven-game road trip looking to atone for two straight losses. The Predators want to build off two consecutive shootout wins as they open a three-game homestand.
Flames: Multiple Flames players admitted they might have underestimated the New York Islanders after their 3-1 loss on Thursday. Calgary left another arena disappointed on Friday, when Ottawa overcame a three-goal deficit for a 4-3 overtime win at Scotiabank Place. The two defeats come on the heels of four consecutive wins, and represented another in which Calgary failed to put together a full hour of solid hockey.
"It's just all the little things that help bottle up a team," said backup goalie Leland Irving, who made 45 saves. "We were still too loose tonight and allowing them to skate too much. There were times in the game where I thought we were in control, but obviously in the end they took it to us."
Predators: Nashville's two straight shootout wins have come against two of the Western's top eight teams: Minnesota and St. Louis. On Friday, Martin Erat scored in the fifth round of the shootout to beat St. Louis 2-1 and hand the Blues their first home loss in seven games. With captain and defensive leader Shea Weber sidelined, Pekka Rinne stopped 35 shots and the defense blocked 15 more.
"Not only are we getting great goaltending from (Rinne) but we are better defensively," Predators coach Barry Trotz said. "They are learning under fire against a very good team and the last couple of days we've had to clamp down and we've done a very good job."
Who's Hot: Nashville's extra-period execution. After starting the season with losses in four of five overtime or shootout affairs, the Predators won all four December games that went past 60 minutes.
Injury Report: The Flames’ Derek Smith – who scored the winner in Calgary's only win against Nashville this season -- is expected miss Sunday's game with a right leg injury. Alex Tanguay (upper body) Matt Stajan (sprained ankle), Henrik Karlsson (sprained right MCL), Mark Giordano (ruptured tendons in leg), David Moss (ankle) and Brett Carson (back) are all on injured reserve.
Stat Pack: Nashville's power play has been near the top of the League (it's currently second) for most of the season, and Wilson's winner in the last meeting came on the man advantage. However, Calgary could present some problems for the Preds opportunistic attack; the Flames are 10th in the League with only 18 goals allowed in the 4-on-5, and overall have been effective on the power play, killing chances 83.2 percent of the time.
Puck Drop: "We all knew what we had to do, and we were talking about it on the bench, but nothing got done. We lost last night, now we lose again tonight. We're just not sharp right now." – Flames forward Rene Bourque on his team’s recent skid