The Nashville Predators (29-18-3) conclude their short two game road trip in Denver tonight against the Colorado Avalanche (28-15-6).
Tonight's contest is the third of four meetings with the Avalanche this year. Nashville won 3-2 on October 8th in the Preds home opener. The Preds won in Denver 4-3 in an overtime game on November 25. The final game between the two teams will be on February 4th at the Sommet Center.
The Predators anticipate the return of J. P. Dumont but have indicated that Joel Ward will not play due to nagging injuries.
Colorado has been decimated by injuries and will not have Matt Hendricks, Milan Hejduk, Ruslan Salai, Adam Foote or David Jones.
Pekka Rinne (18-8-2, 2.83, .904) will return to the net for the Predators and according to John Glennon may end the goalie rotation if he has a strong outing. It is expected that Craig Anderson (24-11-5, 2.56, .921) will be in net for the Avalanche.
Predator's Keys to the Game
Avoid Three Game Losing Streak...
After last night's loss in Phoenix, this is a must win game for the Predators who have had only two stretches of at least three games without points this season, the last being in late December. The other time was a four game skid in route to the Preds 2-5-1 start.
Losing can become a habit in the same way that winning can be contagious. The Preds have played well on the road and really need this win to keep their confidence level high heading to Columbus and Detroit for important division games next week.
Keep the Shifts Short...
Playing at a higher altitude the night after a hard fought game 2500 feet lower can be very taxing on skaters. Barry Trotz will have to keep his players well rested with shorter than usual shifts. He will also need to lengthen his bench and use all four lines.
In last night's game, Trotz used his fourth line of Belak, Spalling and Tootoo more early in the game when it was more defense and less skate. Expect to see something similar tonight.
Don't Disappoint the Dads...
From what I can gather, the Preds have never been skunked on the Dad's trip so this would not be the year to set a precedent. Hopefully, the weather will be better and there will be enough of a crowd in Denver to make the fathers feel like they have actually been to an NHL game after seeing the small crowd in Phoenix lat night.
The Preds return to Nashville after the game and will be off on Saturday to have more time for the players to hang out with their fathers. They will return to the ice at Centennial for practice on Sunday to prepare for Tuesday's final game of the year at Columbus.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass