The Nashville Predators continue their key four-game road trip through western Canada on Thursday night with a crucial clash against the Calgary Flames.
Nashville trails the Flames for the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference by three points following a 2-1 overtime victory at Winnipeg on Tuesday to begin the trip. The Predators will also visit Edmonton on Saturday and Pacific Division-leading Vancouver on Monday before beginning a stretch that sees them play eight of 10 games at home.
Mikael Granlund one-timed the game-winner at 1:11 of overtime and Juuse Saros stopped 33 shots, including a penalty shot by Patrik Laine, to lead the Predators past the Jets.
“Every point is really big right now,” Granlund said after scoring his seventh goal in the past 15 games. “That was a big win for us but it’s all about the next one. Let’s move on. There’s a lot of hockey left to be played this season.”
Nashville, Chicago — which hosts Washington on Wednesday night — and Winnipeg all had 57 points after Tuesday’s action, three points behind Calgary for the second wild-card spot.
“Obviously, it’s big points,” said Saros. “A lot of teams with the same amount of points, especially in our division. Yeah, it’s a big game but just try to stay patient.”
The Predators face a Calgary team that is just 1-3-1 in its last five games and has lost back-to-back home games Saturday night against Edmonton (8-3) and Tuesday night to San Jose (3-1).
Despite the recent slump, fifth-place Calgary is just five points behind first-place Vancouver and two points behind second-place Edmonton in a very tight Pacific Division.
“Everybody’s frustrated, for sure, a little bit,” Calgary coach Geoff Ward said after Tuesday’s loss to the Sharks. “I’d prefer that we were more angry than frustrated because I think it’s a totally different emotion.
“I don’t think frustration does a whole lot for you. I think anger does a lot more for you. When we’re sick and tired as a group of seeing this and losing games, we’ll find a way to fix it. But more than anything, you’ve got to hate losing. So, I hope the emotion is more anger than frustration so that we’re more prepared to do something about it.”
The Flames could be without team captain and reigning Norris Trophy winner Mark Giordano. Giordano, who leads the team with an average of 23:57 time on ice per game, left Tuesday’s loss in the second period with a lower-body injury that appeared to be his right hamstring.
Giordano underwent an MRI on Tuesday to learn more about the extent of the injury.
“He’s our captain, he’s our leader,” said Ward when asked if he was concerned about Giordano’s injury. “He plays a lot of minutes for us on the back end of our top pair, and on special teams. It’s potentially a huge loss, so we’ll worry about things as they unfold. Right now, it’s all speculation, so we’ll wait and see what the doctors say, and we’ll go from there.”
This is the second of three meetings between the teams. Calgary rallied from a 4-1 third period deficit to win the first one, 6-5, in Nashville on Oct. 31 on Matthew Tkachuk’s highlight-reel, between-the-legs, game-winning goal with 1.4 seconds left in overtime.
–Field Level Media