Nashville and Calgary renew a fisticuff-filled grudge match tonight at the Sommet Center, as the Predators look to rebound following losses on back-to-back nights to St. Louis and Phoenix earlier this week. Nashville is unbeaten in its past seven home games against the Flames, with its last loss coming all the way back on Dec. 17, 2002.
The bad blood between these two teams dates back to Jan. 16, 2003 – a game that saw 24 penalties. With just two seconds left in overtime of a 2-2 game, Jarome Iginla crashed into Preds goaltender Tomas Vokoun, which set off a brawl that saw both Vokoun and Flames goalie Jamie McLennan garner 10-minute misconducts.
Things became heated again in Calgary Jan. 22, 2004, a game that included four fights, including a memorable one between Iginla and Jordin Tootoo.
“Those were incidents in the past that stirred some anger,” head coach Barry Trotz said of the past history. “We have had some memorable games with them – there have been some scrapes and incidents that have made both teams very competitive.”
Music City is the third of four stops for Calgary during its current road trip. The Flames began the trip with a 4-2 loss in Detroit Wednesday before dropping Dallas in overtime last night for their first victory of the season.
The 2007-08 edition of the Flames have a new face behind the bench, as “Iron” Mike Keenan, a coach notorious for his discipline and attention to detail, takes over for Jim Playfair. On the ice, Iginla is notched his first goal last night in Dallas, having recorded just a pair of assists in the season’s first three games. He is helped by the usual suspects on offense – Damond Langkow (four goals), Alex Tanguay (four assists), and Kristian Huselius (2g-1a). The defensive contingent has looked shaky at times out of the gate, allowing 13 goals in its first four games. 2006 Vezina Trophy (best goaltender) Miikka Kiprusoff currently holds a 3.59 goals against average and .871 save percentage.
“We have to be ready – they are going to play the desperate, hard-nosed game that Mike wants,” Trotz said.
For the Predators, a high-energy bounce-back game will be crucial after being outscored 11-4 in their two previous tilts this week, a far cry from the 9-1 goal differential they amassed in the squad’s first two games of the season – home victories against Colorado and Dallas. Like he did in the third period against St. Louis, and throughout the game Thursday, expect Trotz to continue to mix and match line combinations in an attempt to generate some offense.
“Its repetition, accountability and discipline that will get us back on track,” Trotz said. “We just have to make sure we focus on the right things, and keep people accountable. Everything we do is with purpose, and we think it through. You manage the game by managing certain situations, and we have to do a better job of managing situations.”
Defenseman Dan Hamhuis (1g-4a) has been the lone consistent point producer thus far, claiming either a goal or an assist in all four of the Preds games thus far, placing him tied for first among defensive scoring leaders. He currently sits tied with captain Jason Arnott (2g-3a) for the lead in that category with five points.
Opening faceoff for the contest is slated for 7 p.m., with tickets still available by visiting the Sommet Center Box Office in the arena tower, calling (615) 770-PUCK, and by accessing nashvillepredators.com or ticketmaster.com on the World Wide Web. All the game’s action will be carried on WRLT Lightning 100.1 FM.