Flames, Predators to meet while in playoff fight

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The Calgary Flames and Nashville Predators are in similar situations.

They’re battling for wild-card playoff berths in the Western Conference and incorporating different players into their lineup — both old and new.

That’s paying off for both teams entering Thursday night’s matchup in Nashville.

As for the new, the Flames welcomed defensemen Erik Gustafsson and Derek Forbort, acquired at Monday’s trade deadline from the Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings, respectively. Gustafsson had an assist Tuesday in a 5-2 victory at the Boston Bruins.

“I liked them. It takes a little while obviously for them to get used to not only each other but to their new teammates, systems and stuff,” Flames coach Geoff Ward said. “But I thought they played well. I like the fact that they got better as the game went on. I think both guys played to their strengths.”

Mikael Backlund had two goals and an assist, Sean Monahan scored twice, and goaltender David Rittich made 26 saves for the Flames, who have won three of four and are 6-3-0 in their past nine games.

The victory against the league-leading Bruins put Calgary atop the West’s wild-card race.

“This shows not just ourselves, the whole league, that we’re a really solid team,” Backlund said. “And we’ve known that all year. It’s been a lot of ups and downs … we know we have to be more consistent. But when we play the right way, we’re really, really a dangerous group.”

As for the old, the Predators’ Ryan Ellis had a goal and an assist Tuesday in Nashville’s 3-2 home victory against the Ottawa Senators. The goal was Ellis’ first in three games since returning from an upper-body injury that caused him to miss 20 games.

Juuse Saros made 33 saves for the Predators, who are 5-1-1 in their past seven games. The win moved them into a three-way tie for the West’s final wild-card berth with Winnipeg and Arizona, although they have three games in hand on the Jets and four on the Coyotes.

“More or less, (it’s) win and get in,” Ellis said. “We’ve just got to keep winning our games in hand, just trust the process and keep working and doing our part. We control our own destiny for the most part, and it’s a lot better feeling when you control your destiny versus you hope someone loses.”

Predators coach John Hynes praised Ellis for the way he’s settled back into the lineup.

“It’s been pretty quick. He was off for a long time, but he’s also a guy that’s in great shape. He really takes care of himself,” Hynes said. “And as we said, I think he knows the game very well, but he’s a student of the game. He’s been in all the meetings. He’s watched practices. He was able to practice prior to coming back. He’s a veteran player that’s been around, played for different coaches, played different systems. I think the big thing for him even when he spoke with me prior to coming back was ‘It’ll probably take a few shifts or maybe a first period and I’ll be back up to speed.’ And he’s been back up to speed pretty quick.”

Key players from both teams are questionable for Thursday’s matchup.

Flames defenseman Mark Giordano, the reigning Norris Trophy winner, was considered a game-time decision Tuesday but didn’t play, missing his 10th consecutive contest with a lower-body injury.

Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne was scratched from Tuesday’s lineup and is listed as day-to-day with an illness.

–Field Level Media

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