Preview: Flames at Predators (1/1)

The Predators take on the Flames at 5:00pm on Sunday at Bridgestone Arena.

Location: Bridgestone Arena

Game Time: 5:00 pm Central

TV: Fox Sports – Tennessee

Radio: 102.5 The Game (WPRT-FM)

Records:
Nashville: 20-14-4 (44 points, 4th Central, 7th Western)
Calgary: 18-16-5 (41 points, 4th Northwest, 12th Western)

2011-12 Regular Season Series:
10/22/11 – NSH 2 – CGY 0
11/29/11 – NSH 0 – CGY 1
12/13/11 – CGY 1 – NSH 2

Josi’s Accelerated Course: When Shea Weber went down with a concussion last week, rookie defenseman Roman Josi found himself suddenly thrust into Nashville’s top defensive pairing with Ryan Suter.

Having been in the NHL for just a hair over a month – he was recalled from the Milwaukee Admirals on November 26th – Josi has essentially had a crash course in big league defense.

“I had some really tough games,” Josi said, “but I went back to learn some more. I’m getting more confident the more games I play. I definitely feel that I’m better than at the beginning.”

Playing with Suter has had a lot to do with that boost in confidence that Josi has experienced.

“He’s a world-class defenseman,” Josi said. “He helps out a lot, he talks a lot and he makes it easier for me.”

Head coach Barry Trotz agrees that skating with veteran Suter has helped Josi adapt quickly to the NHL.

“You see the growth in Josi every game playing with (Suter),” Trotz said after the Predators defeated the Blues in St. Louis. “(Suter) has a lot to do with that. They play a similar game – he reminds me of a young Ryan Suter. He’s playing with a lot of poise and a lot of confidence.”

Josi actually made the 2010 Swiss Olympic squad, but was sidelined through the Vancouver games with an injury. Having already shown the skills to compete against elite players on an international level, Josi has made at least one major adjustment since his November call-up.

“I’ve tried to be more physical in the defensive zone, go at guys faster and separate them from the puck,” Josi said.

Big Ern’s Rate of Return: Along with Matt Halischuk and Craig Smith, tough guy Brian McGrattan surprisingly leads the Predators in scoring against the Flames this season. Nashville has managed to score 4 goals in the 3 contests  – McGrattan has assisted on two of them. McGrattan, who spent the 2009-10 season in Calgary, has 16 career points (3G-13A).

Spals to the Wall: As PuckScene.com has documented on numerous occasions, the Nashville Predators are 11-0-1 all-time when Nick Spaling tallies a goal. However, Spaling has 0 career points with a -1 against the Flames.

Goal Searching: With Blake Geoffrion’s demotion last week, McGrattan and Francis Bouillon are the only Predator skaters who have played more than 20 games, but have yet to tally a goal on the season. McGrattan’s last goal came on October 16, 2009, as a Calgary Flame against Vancouver, while Bouillon’s last tally came on November 3, 2010, against Phoenix. Ryan Ellis and Gabriel Bourque  have also yet to tally their first career goals. All other current roster skaters have scored a goal this season.

Quick Notes: Nashville is 24-19-9 all-time against Calgary, including a 14-9-3 record at Bridgestone Arena…With 10 goals and 14 assists, David Legwand is currently on pace to score 22 goals and 55 points on the season. Legwand has only crossed the 50-point barrier once (2006-07) and the 20-goal barrier twice (2006-07 and 2008-09)…The Predators are 5-5-0 against the Northwest Division this season and 2-1-0 at Bridgestone Arena…Nashville is 6-0-0 this season when Martin Erat registers a goal…The Predators are 2-6-1 all-time on New Year’s Day…The Predators-Flames game is the only NHL game on New Year’s Day this season.

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A native of Franklin, Tennessee, Patten Fuqua is the managing editor of PuckScene.com. He earned a Bachelor’s of Science from Belmont University in Journalism and Broadcasting.