This afternoon’s game is a matchup of two teams that haven't been doing much losing lately. The Colorado Avalanche have won three in a row and 13 of their last 14 home games. Today they’ll be facing off against a Nashville Predators team that has won 7 games in a row and currently sit at the top of the Central Division standings.
Sitting only a point out of the second wildcard position, every game is huge from here on out, but if the Avalanche are able to get a big win against a division rival, it will go a long way towards improving their playoff chances.
The Avs are proving they can be successful despite the loss of their best defenseman, now it’s time to get a big two points before the team heads out on the road. If Colorado is able to claw their way into the playoffs, there is a very good chance that they’ll meet the Preds in the first round. A win this afternoon would help prove the Avs can hang with the best.
When Erik Johnson went down with a separated shoulder, Avalanche fans began to worry that it was the end of their playoff hopes. Johnson has been the team’s top defender all season and eats so many hard minutes that it seemed impossible to replace him.
The call-up of Duncan Siemens has been a huge success so far, but most importantly, Tyson Barrie has stepped up huge in Johnson’s absence. Over the past two weeks, Barrie has been proving skeptics wrong and he’s turned into the undisputed leader on the blueline.
Up front, we know what’s happening. Nathan MacKinnon is everything. The superstar has 15 points in his last 6 games and seems like he’s determined to single-handedly drag his team into the postseason. He’s been the best player in the league lately, and the team will need another big performance from him today against the best defensive team in the Western Conference.
Gabriel Landeskog - Nathan MacKinnon - Mikko Rantanen
Tyson Jost - Alexander Kerfoot - Nail Yakupov
Matt Nieto - Carl Soderberg - Blake Comeau
J.T. Compher - Dominic Toninato - Gabriel Bourque
Nikita Zadorov - Tyson Barrie
Samuel Girard - Patrik Nemeth
Duncan Siemens - Anton Lindholm
The Nashville Predators are looking like they want to take a trip back to the Stanley Cup Final this season. They are so comfortable with their spot in the standings that coach Peter Laviolette has begun to take a page out of the NBA’s book. On Friday night, the Preds sat out Roman Josi, Scott Hartnell, Craig Smith and Yannick Weber simply to rest.
With the addition of Mike Fisher and Ryan Hartman at the trade deadline, this is as deep a Predators forward group as we’ve seen in a long time.
On the back-end, Nashville has the best top-4 in the NHL. Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis continue to be two of the most underrated stars in the league, while P.K. Subban has been incredible this season, putting himself in the Norris Trophy conversation.
Filip Forsberg - Ryan Johansen - Viktor Arvidsson
Kevin Fiala - Kyle Turris - Craig Smith
Scott Hartnell - Nick Bonino - Calle Jarnkrok
Colton Sissons - Mike Fisher - Ryan Hartman
Roman Josi - Ryan Ellis
Matthias Ekholm - P.K. Subban
Alexei Emelin - Yannick Weber
There won’t be a pregame skate today, so we won’t know until warmups, but it’s a near certainty that Semyon Varlamov will be in net for the tenth straight game. Varly is 18-13-3 on the season with a .914 sv%.
Across the ice, we are likely to see Pekka Renne. The all-star goaltender is 34-9-4 on the season with a .927 sv%.