This is it. The last game of the regular season. It’s technically a makeup game because a water leak in Bridgestone Arena forced the league to cancel a game back in November, but regardless it’s the last barrier between Colorado and the playoffs.
Win, and they get the number one seed in the Central and play Seattle.
Lose, and drop into the second-place matchup with Minnesota.
It’s that simple.
With Artturi Lehkonen back in the fold and the Jets playing pesky hockey despite resting some lineup regulars, the Avs gritted out a victory last night to reach 50 wins in back-to-back seasons for the first time in franchise history.
That’s no small feat and should be celebrated, but it came on the same day Gabe Landeskog announced he would not return for the playoffs due to lingering complications from a series of knee injuries and surgeries. So the celebration was muted a bit.
Andrew Cogliano also left the contest with a shoulder injury, meaning the Avalanche still face a lot of lineup question marks for tonight and round one of the playoffs regardless of seeding. Alex Galchenyuk has been recalled as a potential fill-in if anyone else can’t go.
Despite all the injuries, this team is playing amazing defense and getting enough goal-scoring from Nathan Mackinnon and Mikko Rantanen to lock up the division tonight.
COLORADO AVALANCHE PROJECTED LINES
Valeri Nichushkin — Nathan MacKinnon — Mikko Rantanen
Evan Rodrigues — J.T. Compher — Artturi Lehkonen
Matt Nieto — Lars Eller — Alex Newhook
Alex Galchenyuk — Ben Meyers— Logan O’Connor
Samuel Girard — Devon Toews
Jack Johnson — Bowen Byram
Brad Hunt — Erik Johnson
Their season is over. They have every reason to phone it in tonight, but on home ice, these Predators are going to want to leave their fans with something to look forward to for next year and may relish the chance to play spoiler to the Avs division title hopes.
They’ve actually won four of their last five games, including impressive victories over Vegas and Minnesota, but a loss to Winnipeg gave the Jets just enough fuel to outlast the Preds for the final playoff spot.
That said, they’ll be playing tonight without Filip Forsberg, Roman Josi, Matt Duchene, and four other lineup regulars. So the Predators in this game are not the same team they’ve been - instead, they’re a bunch of guys trying to prove they belong on an NHL roster next year.
As we saw last night against the Jets, guys with something to prove can be tough to beat.
NASHVILLE PREDATORS PROJECTED LINES
Zach Sanford - Cody Glass - Philip Tomasino
Kiefer Sherwood - Thomas Novak - Luke Evangelista
Yakov Trenin - Colton Sissons - Juuso Parssinen
Rasmus Asplund - Mark Jankowski -Michael McCarron
Ryan McDonagh -Dante Fabbro
Tyson Barrie - Jake Livingstone
Spencer Stastney - Cal Foote
With seeding on the line, it’s still up in the air between Alexandar Georgiev and Pavel Francouz in net for Colorado. Nashville played Juuse Saros last night and play Kevin Lankinen.