Predators-Flames Preview

While the Calgary Flames can boast some very impressive accomplishments this season, they would surely exchange those for being in better position at the All-Star break.

Calgary heads into its final game before the layoff Wednesday night looking to rebound from a disappointing road trip in a matchup with the Nashville Predators.

The Flames ended a five-year playoff drought last season and surprised many with a first-round win over Vancouver before falling to Anaheim in the Western Conference semifinals.

With that success came expectations, and Calgary has been unable to meet those through the first half.

Although the Flames (21-23-3) won seven straight in December - their longest streak in 10 years - and set a franchise record with 11 consecutive home victories, they are 13th in the conference and 10 points out of a playoff spot.

A slow start and failure to capitalize on the power play sent Calgary to a 2-1 loss at Dallas on Monday, capping a 1-3-1 trip. Joe Colborne scored early in the third period after Karri Ramo allowed two goals 80 seconds apart in the second.

''We kind of woke up too late to play,'' said Ramo, whose team was outshot 10-3 in the opening period. ''Against a team like that, you have to start pushing right away.''

Calgary was scoreless on five power-play chances for the second straight game and is 2 for 21 in the past six.

"We got to start from the get-go next game," captain Mark Giordano said. "We have one more before the break that we have to have, and then we'll get some rest and go from there."

It's no surprise that Johnny Gaudreau's production is tied directly to Calgary's success. The Flames are 11-2-0 in games Gaudreau scores at least one goal and 10-21-3 when he fails to find the net.

He's also been a much more productive player at home, tallying 17 goals and 33 of his team-leading 46 points there. He has just three goals and 13 points in 24 road contests.

Nashville (23-18-8) has an opportunity to head into the break with its longest win streak of the season after beating Vancouver 2-1 on Tuesday. James Neal snapped a tie with 4:44 remaining and Pekka Rinne turned aside 28 shots to keep the Predators perfect on their four-game trip through Canada.

''We're fighting to play for a Stanley Cup here," Neal said. "And right now with how tight the West is, you have to do anything you can to grab points to get into the playoffs. That's where our team is at.''

Defense and goaltending have keyed Nashville's three straight wins. After allowing 3.5 goals during a 2-6-2 stretch, the Predators have surrendered one in each game during the run.

Rinne has a .963 save percentage in those three games but has only played once this season on consecutive days. He's also never fared well in Calgary, going 1-5-0 with a 3.48 goals-against average in nine starts.

Backup Carter Hutton stopped 29 shots in a 3-0 victory over Minnesota on Jan. 16 in his most recent appearance.

He could be asked to help the Predators win four consecutive road games for the first time since Dec. 31, 2010-Jan. 8, 2011.

Kris Russell's overtime goal lifted the Flames to a 2-1 victory at Nashville on Dec. 15, their fourth consecutive win in the series.

The Predators are 8-1-3 against Canadian teams this season.


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