Colorado plays the first of only three home games in January tonight as they welcome the Nashville Predators to the Pepsi Center. The Predators always give the Avalanche some trouble. The Preds have won the last five meetings between the two teams, scoring 22 goals to the Avs' 11, and seven of the last 8 going back two seasons. The team also swept the series against Colorado last season.
Shea Weber is killing it this season. He leads the Preds in scoring (9 g, 21a) and plus/minus (+12). Patrick Hornqvist leads the team in goals at 11. This team is much like the Avs in that its scoring is spread across the lines; both teams also struggle some to get the puck in the net. Thus the key to this game will likely be defense and, in particular, goaltending. In a low-scoring game, holding on to a lead is paramount as goals are hard to come by. This doesn't bode well for the Avs as Pekke Rinne is playing extremely well. He has a .917 save percentage and is second in wins for the league this season. He has clearly been Nashville's number one netminder as he's started 37 games to back up Anders Lindback's 8. With Rinne's last start on Saturday, he's a lock to be in net tonight.
Coach Sacco has already said that Semyon Varlamov will start for Colorado. He's playing very well himself lately, coming off a shut out in Chicago as well as four straight wins. Ryan O'Reilly has been hot for the Avalanche, leading the team with 29 points (10g, 19a). The newly formed line of TJ Galiardi, Paul Stastny, and David Jones has also been clicking, combining for four points in its last two games. Of course, Gabriel Landeskog—who was just named to the NHL's All-Star Rookie Team—is one the Predators need to watch.
Forward lines will remain the same as they were in the games against Chicago and St. Louis. The defense will be without Shane O'Brien, who is out with a leg injury sustained on Saturday in St. Louis. Ryan Wilson will replace him, playing his first game since suffering a head injury in a game against the Vancouver Canucks on December 6th. Wilson was arguably the Avs' best defender before he went out, leading the defense in scoring (14 pts) and plus/minus (+5). Another defenseman injured in the Blues' game was Erik Johnson (hand). He is listed as day-to-day and will most likely be a game-time decision by Sacco.
Nashville sits at 7th in the conference right now, but that is only one point ahead of the 10th-place Avalanche. A Colorado win tonight would put the team back in a playoff spot.