The Colorado Avalanche (31-18-6) finish their regular season series with the Nashville Predators (30-21-4) when they play at the Sommet Center tonight at 7 p.m.
The Predators hold a 2-1 edge in the season's series. The Preds and Avs opened Nashville's home season when the Preds won 3-2 on October 8. The Preds won 4-3 in overtime at the Pepsi Center on November 25. On the last road trip Colorado won 2-1 at home on January 22.
Both teams are desperately fighting for points in the crowded Western Conference race. Colorado has slipped to sixth place with 68 points. The Avs have not been playing poorly, going 7-3 in the in last ten games, but the Coyotes and Kings have been even hotter and moved up in the standings. The Avs remain two points behind Vancouver in the Northwest Division race.
The Predators are in a three way tie for seventh with Calgary and Detroit with 64 points but do have two games in hand on both teams.
Pekka Rinne (19-10-3, 2.72, .905) will start his third game in a row for the Preds while Craig Anderson (27-14-5, 2.43, .924) will start his eleventh in a row for Colorado.
Predators Keys to the Game
Preds Need to Summon the Hockey Gods...
For the better part of November and December, the Predators seemed to be getting all the breaks as Barry Trotz's hockey gods smiled on the Predators efforts. The chickens have come home to roost with the breaks going the other way recently. The Preds have not played particularly poorly, they just haven't won much, losing six of their last seven games.
Another sign that the odds are catching up with the Predators are the number of questionable calls by the officials that have seemed to go against the Preds in recent games. When you are playing close games a bad call or a bad break can be the difference. When things are clicking, you can survive those things because you have a larger margin of error.
Special Teams Play on Life Support...
The Predators special team play has been abysmal all season. For weeks I have been optimistic, thinking that it would have to get better and it has not. The power play (29th in the NHL, 15.2%) is 1 for 25 in the last nine games and lost Cody Franson for a couple of weeks at the start of Tuesday's game.
The Penalty kill (26th, 76.7%) has given up six goals in the last five games after playing slightly better at the start of January. Now that all the PK team players are healthy, they need to return to their top ten quality status that the Preds have been known for over the years.
The hockey gods will not allow a team into the playoffs with special team play this unproductive no matter how good the team is on five on five play.
Don't get Caught up in the Brother Act...
Every media outlet has done all the hype about the first NHL meeting between the bothers O'Reilly, Cal and Ryan. It is a great human interest story but does not need to carry over on to the ice. Cal appears to have solidified his spot on the roster and needs to focus on doing what he has done in the AHL and transform his game to the next level. This would be a great time for a breakout game so his brother could watch.
The Preds finish the homestand on Saturday against the Sharks in the last time game until March 2. The will play four games on the road next week to finish out their pre-Olympic schedule.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass