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Game 67: Colorado @ Nashville – When an Avalanche Meets a Yeti


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Photo By: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

It was on January 12th that the Predators and the Avalanche met last with an overtime home win for Nashville by a score of 3-2. This was dead in the middle of the most impressive month of January in Predators history with Pekka Rinne and the rest of the team playing beyond their potential.

Colorado had a 5-6-1 record for the month of January and were on the outside looking in. Since then, however, the Avalanche have been a team on a mission of making the playoffs after a sub-standard start. Having won 6 out of their last 8 games, Colorado is tied with the eighth place San Jose Sharks and one point behind the 7th spot.

Colorado needs the points in a very bad way to stay in the fight for the playoffs. Nashville needs the points to try and catch St. Louis or Detroit to solidify home ice advantage. It should be an interesting night in Nashville as limited tickets remain for the 7 P.M. start.

This Year’s Series: 2-0-0 Home: 1-0-0 Away: 1-0-0

Looking at the Avalanche: Playing impressive hockey in their last eight games has pushed the playoff chances for Colorado to make it in. Amidst fierce Western Conference competition, the Avalanche are keeping with the pack although they have played two to three games more than most of the teams surrounding them.

A key loss happened Tuesday night as Duchene is out yet again with an injury. Landeskog has been pacing many of the rookies and looks to be one of the favorites for the Calder Trophy at years end. Landeskog’s +22 is quite impressive where the next closest Colorado player is a +10 (Downie and Ryan Wilson).

Looking at the Predators: The Predators got a wake-up call on Tuesday’s loss to the L.A. Kings. The Predators realized that Pekka Rinne is human after all and had an off night. The defense for Nashville definitely had an off night and even with free frostys for a 4 goal performance, the Kings edged Nashville 5-4.

While the offensive players for Nashville keep clicking, the bottom two forward lines are not producing as they have in the past two months. Tootoo has been a non-factor. Smith is turning the puck over way too much and Gaustad looked bad in the faceoff dot against L.A. Luckily, the Golden Yeti that is Hal Gill has been steadfast on the blueline. Along with Roman Josi, they have played better than the top D-pair of Weber and Suter Tuesday night.

For the Avalanche to win: Even with a key cog like Matt Duchene being out, the Avalanche still have dangerous weapons on every line. Landeskog, as mentioned, is having a great rookie campaign and Ryan O’Reilly is carving out a career year for himself.

Hejduk, Stastny and Jones are no slouches either and with Varlamov playing outstanding in net, look for Colorado to press the issue early and often with speed and tenacity in the neutral and offensive zones. Speaking of Varlamov, he may be peaking at just the right time. He has won 5 out of the last 8 games for Colorado and has only let in 5 goals in his last 6 games.

For the Predators to win: Take the offense from Tuesday night and couple that with the defense from last Saturday. The Predators have to play a balanced game with quicker transitions and offensive output. At the same time, the defensive line has to clear the crease, get the puck away from the boards and the opposing team and keep the play in the offensive zone.

Pekka Rinne is not perfect and though he has been known to steal the occasional game for the Predators, he is not a miracle worker. Trotz will have worked on the defensive side of the game in the practice yesterday morning and it will pay dividends in tonight’s game. The Avalanche will come with speed and finesse and it’s up to the Predators to match that with power and hard-nosed play. Expect Gill and Gaustad to provide that toughness and defense the Predators desperately needed on Tuesday night.

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