The hunter now hunted

Coach Jim Playfair will have his hands full when the Calgary Flames take on the Nashville Predators...

Coach Jim Playfair will have his hands full when the Calgary Flames take on the Nashville Predators tonight. (Sun Media/Stuart Dryden)

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:41 AM ET

An important win over the Detroit Red Wings this week would seem to indicate the Calgary Flames have turned up their intensity as they attempt to hit the playoffs in stride.

But can they do it again tonight against the Nashville Predators, a team that has beaten them eight straight times?

No team has been able to dominate the Flames like the pesky Preds.

Calgary's last point against the Central Division powerhouse came in a 4-4 tie more than three years ago in Nashville. When they met in the Music City earlier this month, the Flames were riding their only road winning streak all season -- a paltry two games -- and were looking for a sixth straight victory overall.

Those hopes came crashing down in a 6-3 loss to the Predators, who have been feeding on the Flames ever since the expansion team came aboard in 1998.

That loss March 8 sent the Flames on a slide during which they dropped five of their six games to put them in a much-tighter playoff race than they expected.

Beating the Wings 2-1 at the 'Dome Tuesday night with a stifling defensive game not seen consistently from this squad all season got them out of their funk but they'll have to be equally as intense defending their zone against the speedy and tenacious Preds, who can quickly take advantage of every mistake and turnover.

"Another top team in the West -- in the league, for that matter," said Flames winger Tony Amonte.

"You've got to win this game, you need every guy playing (his best to do that)."

The Flames have been able to score against the Predators. Keeping the Preds' attack away from goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff is another story.

The Finn has faced an average of almost 35 shots per game against Nashville. More telling is the high percentage of scoring chances, as the Preds have racked up 13 goals and an empty netter this year.

Defenceman Robyn Regehr knows the playoff-style strategy reminiscent of the 2004 run still gives the now offensively talented Flames their best chance to win.

"Guys have realized at this time of year you have to play that way to win games," said Regehr.

"Things have tightened up considerably with the playoff races and we need all the points we can get."

Craig Conroy agrees, saying the team now aims to win 1-0 every time they hit the ice.

"The big thing is the other way we're not winning," the centre said, adding captain Jarome Iginla talked to the team after the recent loss to Minnesota before GM Darryl Sutter held court in the room this week.

The direction from Iginla was simple, says Conroy.

"We work hard but we've got to work smart, too," he recalled.

"Do the little things and win the one-on-one battles and things like that."

It's the same message head coach Jim Playfair has been trying to get across all season but the reinforcement from Iginla and Sutter may have been final ingredient in overcoming their issues.

"Those are three guys that command a lot of respect," said Conroy.

"The guys in here are pumped up."

It'll take every ounce of grey matter, work ethic and energy the Flames have to beat a team that has continued to fight for the Presidents' Trophy despite a rash of injuries.


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