Flames chase fourth straight, drop in on Predators
FLAMES (14-13-2) at PREDATORS (14-11-4)
TV: SNET-W (HD), FS-TN
Calgary 6-3-1; Nashville 4-6-0
This is the third of four meetings between these Western Conference teams, and the first at Bridgestone Arena. The teams split the first two encounters. In their most recent encounter on Nov. 29, Derek Smith
recorded his first NHL goal and Miikka Kiprusoff
stopped 26 shots for his first shutout of the season in a 1-0 Flames win.
A re-energized Calgary team heads to Nashville with a 6-1-1 record over its last eight in tow -- including three straight home victories. The Predators are also improving, having won two straight since an abysmal 2-6-1 stretch left them with an uphill battle in the competitive Central Division.
Calgary wants to keep improving on its brightest stretch of the season. Its current three-game winning streak is a season high, but all of those games came in Alberta. Nashville marks the start of a four-game, six-day road swing for the Flames, who are once again buoyed by their captain, Jerome Iginla. Iginla had 2 goals against Edmonton Saturday, and has 4 goals and 5 assists over the Flames' last five games. Despite his significant contributions, Iginla credited his teammates for the recent hot streak.
"Our whole game as a group is getting better," he said. "Our confidence is growing, we're moving the puck better, we've got more puck possession, and we're skating better. And our goaltending's been outstanding all season."
In the crease, Kiprusoff has been among the stingiest netminders in the League, going 6-0-1 with two shutouts and a 2.19 GAA in his last seven outings.
After a rough stretch that included the shutout loss to Calgary, the Predators have settled with two straight wins. On Saturday, Nashville kicked off a four-game homestand by dropping Anaheim by a 3-2 margin. Jordin Tootoo returned from a two-game suspension for a hit on Sabres goalie Ryan Miller to record a goal and an assist in the win. After the game, new Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau waxed on his opponent's "hungry" mentality.
"Nashville was hungry, and they're good in their building," Boudreau said. "It was hard to get through. They had the puck in our zone it seemed like the whole night. It's hard to score when that's the case."
Nashville's surprisingly potent power play is responsible for much of their success. In five games this month, the Preds have gone 7-for-14 on the man advantage, and sit tied for third in the League with a 20.4 percent conversion rate.
Tootoo has 4 goals and 4 assists in his last eight appearances. … Iginla, the League's First Star this past week, is leading his team in goals with 11.
Calgary assist leader Alex Tanguay
, who has 14 helpers this season, is questionable for Tuesday's game with flu-like symptoms. Kipruoff's backup, Henrik Karlsson
(strained right MCL), is on the injured reserve for 6-to-8 weeks, along with Mike Giordano (ruptured tendons in leg), David Moss
(foot) and Anton Babchuk
(hand). … Nashville will skate without center Blake Geoffrion, who hasn't played since the last encounter with Calgary due to a shoulder injury.
Kiprusoff poses a menacing challenge for Nashville. In addition to that shutout, he has gone 14-4-1 with a 1.97 GAA over the last 19 matchups with Nashville including three shutouts, his highest total against any team since the 2007-08 season.
"It's not just getting wins, and winning ugly, but it's being able to be confident in different parts of our games that's going to be key on this road trip. We want to keep climbing, and want that good feeling to continue." -- Iginla on the importance of the upcoming road swing