Predators-Avalanche Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated January 09, 2012
The Nashville Predators have faced every team in the Western Conference except for the Colorado Avalanche. They've likely been eager to get this season series underway. Coming off an encouraging victory, the Predators look to win their sixth in a row over the Avalanche in the opener of a home-and-home set Tuesday night at the Pepsi Center. Nashville (22-15-4) has outscored Colorado 22-11 in winning the last five meetings. Pekka Rinne was between the pipes for each of them, posting a 2.20 goals-against average, and Martin Erat led the Predators offense in last season's four meetings with three goals and five assists. The Avalanche were the only West team Nashville swept last season. The Predators took seven of eight meetings in the past two seasons - two more wins than they had over any other non-division opponent in that span - and their 30 goals were one shy of their most against any team during that stretch. Patric Hornqvist keyed Nashville's domination in those eight games with five goals and six assists, and he nearly recorded his first career hat trick Saturday in a 5-2 win over Carolina. Hornqvist's second goal at 6:56 of the third period put the Predators up 4-0 and he scored again just over four minutes later, but that goal was waved off after a video review. "I'm pretty sure it was the right call," said Hornqvist, who has a team-high 11 goals. "Of course, a hat trick is a big thing. Hopefully, it will come sooner or later." The breakout performance by Hornqvist, who had two goals in his previous 26 games, was among several positives for a Nashville team which has won 10 of 14. Rinne stopped 27 shots, improving to 4-1-0 with a 2.13 GAA since Dec. 28, and the Predators finally got their power play on track, scoring on four of five chances. They were 0 for 16 in the previous five games. "The power play made a big statement coming back after a little bit of a dry spell," coach Barry Trotz said. "That's just what happens in the season sometimes." Nashville will look to keep it going against a Colorado team that allowed two power-play goals on five chances in Saturday's 4-0 loss to St. Louis. The Avs had killed all 13 short-handed situations in their previous four games. Colorado (23-19-1) had its four-game winning streak end Saturday and seemed a bit sluggish after beating Chicago 4-0 the previous night. The Avs had just two first-period shots and were outshot 28-9 through two periods. "We were a little undisciplined chasing our tails a little bit in the first two periods," goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere said. "I think overall we've got to forget about this game, move on." Returning to the Pepsi Center, where the Avs have won nine of 10, could help them bounce back. Ryan O'Reilly, who leads Colorado with 19 assists and 29 points, has five goals and four assists in the last 10 home games. Semyon Varlamov, who has a 1.94 GAA in winning his last five home starts, will likely be back in net after getting the night off Saturday. He stopped 27 shots against the Blackhawks to record his second shutout of the season and has a 1.22 GAA in winning his last four starts. Varlamov, in his first season with Colorado, has only made one career start against the Predators, stopping 22 shots in a 3-2 shootout win for Washington on Oct. 17, 2009. These teams meet again Thursday in Nashville.
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