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Game 52--Flames@Predators: Back in Action

With no Flames participating in this past weekend's All Star events, the team is well-rested and will be looking to extend its four-game winning streak tonight when they take on the Nashville Predators (6PM MT, Sportsnet West).

When we last saw the Flames six days ago, they had tied a season best string of four consecutive 'Ws' with a somewhat shaky victory over the St. Louis Blues in which they were out-played at even strength while leading for the majority of the game. There's little doubt that the Predators are a better team than the Blues, but they still have their weaknesses, as we found out when the Flames beat them to the tune of 3-1 back on January 24th. The good guys are now within six points of tonight's opponent, as the Preds come into tonight's contest on a two-game losing streak.

Already a low-scoring club, injuries have taken a toll on Nashville's forward depth this season. Former Flame Matthew Lombardi is still on the shelf with a concussion, which is a real shame. He appeared to be making progress towards becoming the promising top-six centre many Flames fans had him pegged as when he was traded away from the organization in the famous Olli Jokinen deal (Part I) after scoring a career-high 53 points in 78 games with the Coyotes last season, but has played all of two games for the Predators in 2010-11. If I'm not mistaken, this is Lombardi's second major concussion, as he missed 13 games playoff games for the Flames in 2004 after being sidelined in the Detroit series; yet another example of the devastating effect head injuries can have on the life of a player both on and off the ice. I wish him a full and expedited recovery.

The Preds are also missing Marek Svatos, Steve Sullivan, and Cal O'Reilly up front, as well as Francis Bouillon on the back-end, and will likely be looking to Pekka Rinne to give them a chance at the 'W' in this one, although the Finnish 'tender hasn't had much success against the Flames, going 0-3-1 in five games against Calgary with a 3.50 GAA.

As for the Flames, they've been on a tear on special teams lately (which still feels weird to type, in case you were wondering), scoring six times with the man advantage in their past four games while making fewer trips to the penalty box and limiting the damage shorthanded. David Moss has been a machine as of late, and was named the second star of the week after his two powerplay goals lifted the Flames over the Blues while Miikka Kiprusoff has worked himself out of Brent Sutter's dog house with wins in his past three starts, allowing just five goals and making 95 saves in those games.

Lines and Pairings:

Alex Tanguay-Brendan Morrison-Jarome Iginla

Rene Bourque-Olli Jokinen-David Moss

Curtis Glencross-Matt Stajan-Niklas Hagman

Tom Kostopoulos-Mikael Backlund-Tim Jackman

Robyn Regehr-Jay Bouwmeester

Mark Giordano-Cory Sarich

Adam Pardy-Anton Babchuk

Miikka Kiprusoff

Enjoy the game everyone and revel in the joy of a Kotalik-free roster in the comments. Go Flames.