NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Nashville may not be known as a hockey hotbed but the Predators get plenty of respect on the ice.
Especially from the Calgary Flames, who have yet to beat the Preds in the post-lockout NHL but get another crack at them tonight.
Almost quietly, the southern state's squad of NHLers have put together an incredible season, racking up 86 points in 66 games -- a total second only to Detroit in the Central Division standings.
The Predators don't have star players, save for the speedy Paul Kariya and goaltender Tomas Vokoun, but they do have depth and a young defence capable of becoming the best in the league.
And coach Barry Trotz loves to roll four lines regardless of the situation.
That sounds like a package eerily similar to the Flames of 2003-04.
"They've got great goaltending," winger Chris Simon said shortly after the Flames arrived in the city yesterday. "They have good defence that can move and move the puck. And then they have the four lines that can play at any time. That's what they've done to improve their team -- having depth throughout their lineup."
Their generally small but scrappy lineup has been able to come away with a pair of one-goal wins in Calgary this season to go with their 2-0 shutout at home.
Simon said their work ethic is another thing the two teams share.
"They work hard," said Simon. "Some of the teams get on rolls like we did. You get that confidence and you just keep winning."
- - -
* NOV 29, 2005, IN NASHVILLE
PREDATORS 2 FLAMES 0
* DEC. 27, 2005, IN CALGARY
PREDATORS 4 FLAMES 3
* MARCH 7, 2006, IN CALGARY
PREDATORS 3 FLAMES 2