Predators gear up for home opener vs. Flames

For the second straight season, the Nashville Predators will unveil banners commemorating their accomplishments from the previous campaign before their home opener.

Before it plays the Calgary Flames at Bridgestone Arena, Nashville is scheduled to honor their 117-point 2017-18 by flying banners that honor their first Central Division title, first Western Conference regular season championship and first Presidents’ Trophy.

The banner the Predators would like to unfurl before next season’s home opener is one signifying a Stanley Cup title. To that end, they started this season by sweeping a two-game trip through New York, beating the Rangers 3-2 on Thursday night and edging the Islanders 4-3 Saturday night.

Defenseman Mattias Ekholm, mindful that Nashville has gotten off to slow starts the past two seasons, felt good about taking care of business against two teams it’s supposed to beat.

“We’ve still got some defensive stuff that we can work on,” he said, “but it’s nice to see that the offense is there and we’re coming out on the right side of these tight games. It feels really good for your confidence to be 2-0.”

Ekholm had something to do with that, potting a goal Saturday. The Predators also got outstanding play from their top line of Ryan Johansen, Viktor Arvidsson and Filip Forsberg. Arvidsson scored twice on the Islanders, his first goal being a did-you-see-that tally which saw him slide the puck between his legs as he sped around a defenseman before beating goaltender Thomas Griess.

“That’s his patented move, I guess,” Ekholm said of Arvidsson. “It’s a really great move and you’ve got to be on your toes if you want to be able to defend it.”

Juuse Saros got a start in place of workhorse Pekka Rinne and turned away 26 shots for the win. Rinne, who bagged 34 saves in the opening night win over the Rangers, is expected to get the call on Tuesday night.

Calgary (1-1-0) split a home-and-home series with Vancouver. After dropping the first game 5-2 on Wednesday night in British Columbia, the Flames cranked up their explosive offense Saturday for a 7-4 decision.

Elias Lindholm collected two goals and an assist, while Johnny Gaudreau and Mark Giordano each chipped in a goal and two helpers. Matthew Tkachuk pitched in four assists, three coming during a four-goal third period that gave Bill Peters his first win in his new NHL digs. Peters spent the last four years coaching the Carolina Hurricanes.

“We were moving the puck around pretty well tonight,” Gaudreau said. “There’s still some room for improvement, but it was a step in the right direction for us.”

One thing Peters will have to correct is this team’s tendency to get loose on the defensive end. Goalie Mike Smith isn’t off to a good start, saving just 34 of 42 shots in two games, and backup David Rittich will get a game either Tuesday night or Thursday night when Calgary visits St. Louis.

The absence of rugged defenseman Travis Hamonic, who’s week-to-week with a facial fracture, won’t help the Flames in that regard.