Game 72 Preview: Avalanche in Music City

With just 11 games remaining, the Avalanche look to rebound from a three-game losing streak and gain ground on the Chicago Blackhawks.

A combination of schedule fatigue and injuries to the forward corps left the Avalanche reeling last week with three straight losses, two of which came against teams below them in the standings. In that time the Chicago Blackhawks jumped back ahead of the Avalanche and recaptured home-ice advantage in the teams' all but inevitable first round matchup. 3 points, 1 game in hand, home ice advantage. That's got to be the focus for the Avalanche the rest of the way, because if they want to upset the battle tested, playoff experienced Blackhawks, the Avs are going to need home ice advantage.

On to tonight's game. The Nashville Predators may technically still have a shot at the playoffs, but sitting 8 points back of 8th place in the West with just 10 games left on the schedule, it would take a nothing short of a miracle for the Predators to leapfrog over the four teams between them and a postseason berth. So I ask you Nashville fans, would you rather hold on to your delusional playoff hopes for one day longer? Or give tonight's points to the worthy cause of de-throning the Blackhawks? That's what I thought.

Those hoping for another rematch between top draft picks Nathan MacKinnon and Seth Jones will be disappointed tonight. Jones is out of commission with concussion symptoms, which is bad for the Preds, bad for the game of hockey, and devastating for a good young having a strong rookie season. Best wishes to Jones on a speedy recovery. Without Jones in the lineup the Predators will likely bring Michael Del Zotto back into the lineup. Del Zotto has had a tough time in Nashville since being traded from the New York Rangers. He's had limited ice time and has even been the healthy scratch for a number of games (hey remember when we were supposedly trading Barrie for Del Zotto straight up? HA).

In other news, the "defensive minded" (offensively challenged) Predators have scored an NHL low 173 goals this season (No the Sabres are not an NHL team). Take one look at their roster and frankly, it's not surprising that the Predators have struggled to cover up for Pekka Rinne's absence by scoring more goals. Craig Smith leads the team in goals with 20 Shea Weber leads the team in points with 46. After that "dynamic duo" their next highest scorer is Mike Fisher, with 38 points on the season... Needless to say, I'd rather count on Duchene, O'Reilly, MacKinnon, Landeskog and Stastny to put the biscuit in the basket. Let's hope for the Predators sake that they maybe draft a forward in the first round this year.

Predators Projected Lineup:

Nick Spalding - Mike Fisher - Matt Cullen

Gabriel Bourque - Calle Jarnkrok - Craig Smith

Eric Nystrom - Colin Wilson - Viktor Stalberg

Richard Clune - Colton Sissons - Filip Forsberg

Roman Josi - Shea Weber

Mattias Ekholm - Victor Bartley

Michael Del Zotto - Ryan Ellis

Pekka Rinne

Avalanche Projected Lineup:

Ryan O`Reilly - Matt Duchene - Jamie McGinn

Gabriel Landeskog - Paul Stastny - Nathan MacKinnon

Cody McLeod - Max Talbot - Tyson Barrie (Ugh. Why Patrick? Please stop this)

Patrick Bordeleau - Marc Andre Cliche - Brad Malone

Jan Hejda - Erik Johnson

Andre Benoit - Nick Holden

Nate Guenin - Cory Sarich

Semyon Varlamov

Stats Watch:

- Matt Duchene, Ryan O'Reilly, Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, Tyson Barrie, and Nick Holden are all having career best seasons on the scoresheet.

- Erik Johnson is 5 points from matching his career high for points in a season.

- Ryan O'Reilly is 4 goals from being the first Avalanche 30 goal scorer in basically forever, he still has 0 PIMs.

- The Avalanche need 6 wins to hit the 50 win mark, they need 6 points to hit the 100 point mark. Who'da thunk it.

Puck Drops at 6:00 PM MST, 8:00 PM EST on Altitude

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