The Calgary Flames come to the end of a long road trip Thursday night against a Nashville Predators team coming off perhaps their most exciting win of the season.
Nashville (34-12-9) wiped out a 3-0 deficit in the last 11 minutes of the third period and then beat St. Louis 4-3 on Filip Forsberg's penalty shot at 1:19 of overtime. It was just the second time in the franchise's 20-year history it won in extra time on a penalty shot.
Meanwhile, Calgary (29-20-8) lost a 2-1 second period lead and fell 5-2 at red-hot Boston, allowing three third period goals to fall to 3-2-0 on its six-game tour. It could turn a good trip into an outstanding trip by winning at Bridgestone Arena for the second time this season.
"It's a long road trip for us," defenceman Travis Hamonic said after the loss to the Bruins. "You've got to try and finish off strong."
Making that task tougher for the Flames is the absence of goalie Mike Smith, who will miss his second straight game after injuring his groin late in Sunday night's 3-2 win at the New York Islanders. Smith could be available as soon as Saturday's return home, when Calgary hosts Florida.
In Smith's place, rookie David Rittich got the call in Boston, stopping 35 of 39 shots. Rittich (5-2-2, 2.41 goals-against-average, .923 save percentage) is expected to start on Thursday night, which if he does so would mark his first career start against the Predators.
While the Flames hold down third place in the Pacific Division and sixth place in the Western Conference, Nashville leads Winnipeg by two points in the Central Division and owns a five-point bulge on St. Louis. It has two games in hand on the Jets and four on the Blues.
That's part of what made the rally to beat St. Louis so critical. With extra games in their collective pocket, the Predators have an edge over their pursuers.
"Any time you can beat a division opponent, especially one that's up there in the standings with you, it's a huge win," left winger Austin Watson said.
Watson was a big reason why Nashville stormed from behind to defeat the Blues. He scored a short-handed goal to draw it within 3-2, then converted a rebound right after a penalty to Craig Smith ended to tie the game.
The Predators' depth was on full display in the comeback. Calle Jarnkrok started it with a rebound marker, meaning third and fourth-line performers netted all three goals that pushed the game to overtime.
"That's what this team is all about," Forsberg said. "It doesn't matter if it's the first line or third line or fourth line or second line. Everyone contributes, and it's great to be a part of that."
Pekka Rinne (29-8-4, 2.31 GAA, .927 save percentage) picked up the win by making 28 saves, marking his third victory of the season against St. Louis. He has a shutout victory in Calgary to his credit this year, but it wouldn't be surprising to see backup Juuse Saros (5-4-5, 2.44, .924) get a start to give Rinne some rest.