The NHL is set for another busy schedule on Saturday night. Ten games are on the board for December 8. One of those games includes a matchup between two of the top teams in the Western Conference. The Nashville Predators and Calgary Flames will meet in an important tilt on Saturday night.
Nashville has started out the season with a record of 19-9-1, which has them tied for the top spot in the Central Division with the Colorado Avalanche. The Predators are coming off a weak loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday night. Nashville had won two games before that and will look to get back in the win column on Saturday night.
The Flames have been hot recently, which has helped guide them to the top of the Pacific Division. Calgary has gone 18-9-2 to start out the season. The Flames have won four games in a row and eight of their last ten matchups. Calgary has been playing with high intensity recently, which means Nashville will need to be ready to skate with them right out of the gate.
Saturday’s game between the Predators and the Flames will be the third and final matchup played between these two teams. Each team comes in with a win, which means the winner of Saturday night’s game will take the season series. This should lead to an exciting matchup as both teams battle for the top spot in the Western Conference.
The first game between these two teams this season was hosted by Nashville on October 9. Sean Monahan had two goals and Johnny Gaudreau had three assists in route to a road win. Mike Smith put up one of his best performances of the season, blanking the Predators with a 43 shot shutout. The Flames were able to cruise to a 3-0 win in Nashville.
Calgary hosted the second game of the season series on October 19. The Flames were led by Elias Lindholm who had a goal and an assist. Mark Giordano had another two assists, but it was not enough. Kevin Fiala and Filip Forsberg each had a goal and an assist, while Ryan Ellis and Kyle Turris each tallied two assists. Nashville was able to return the favor with a 5-3 road win against the Flames.
These two teams have both played some competitive games this season. The season series is tied 1-1 with each team winning on the road. The Predators are a road team, which makes me believe there is a chance they can do it again on Saturday night.
Nashville has struggled to get a solid power play going this season. The Predators have improved a little bit, but are still only scoring at a rate of 15.5 percent on the power play. Nashville’s penalty kill has been stopping their opponent’s around 81 percent of the time.
The Flames special teams have been flipped in comparison to the Predators. Calgary’s power play has been solid, scoring 23 percent of the time. The Flames penalty kill has been successful only 77 percent of the time.
These two teams match really well on special teams. The Predators struggling power play could find some success against a weaker penalty kill. Calgary’s strong power play could hit a wall against Nashville’s tough defense. The Flames power play has been a big part of their success this season, so if the Predators can slow it down it could help lead them to the win.
The Predators have been hit pretty hard with injuries to this point in the season. Nashville will be without P.K. Subban, Kyle Turris, Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson against the Flames. The Predators are missing arguably their best player on offense and defense in Subban and Forsberg. Nashville has extremely strong depth, which helps soften the blow, but their absence still stings.
Calgary has had some small issues with injuries as well recently. The Flames are missing Michael Frolik, Michael Stone and Juuso Valimaki due to injury. Mark Giordano and Ryan Lomberg will both be missing due to suspensions from their game against the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night. Calgary could also be missing Mikael Backlund, who is questionable to play on Saturday night.
Pekka Rinne will likely get the start in net for the Predators. Rinne has a record of 12-5-1 in his games played this season. In those starts, he has posted a .930 save percentage and a GAA of 1.96. Rinne is looking to continue his strong campaign to try and capture his second straight Vezina Trophy.
I believe that Mike Smith will start for Calgary on Saturday night. Smith has had a save percentage of .892 and a 2.93 GAA this season. He has a record of 10-7-1 in his starts this season. Smith has struggled to post consistent numbers this season.
The Flames are coming into Saturday night’s game on a winning streak, but I believe that Nashville could end that streak. The Predators have the edge in net, which could help them keep it tight on the road. Both teams are littered with injuries and the Flames suspensions will hurt them even more. Both teams are evenly matched against each other this season and on special teams which should lead to a close game.
BetOnline has Calgary listed as a -128 against the money line. The Flames are expected to win this game around 56 percent of the time. I believe that with how these two teams are matched, this game should be closer to even. The road team has won in each of the first two games this season and I believe this trend continues. I am taking the Predators on the road.