Predators @ Avalanche Preview: It's time to get serious

DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 23: Gabriel Landeskog #92 of the Colorado Avalanche jugggles the puck as he warms up prior to facing the Vancouver Canucks at the Pepsi Center on November 23, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

We get a whiff of playoff-like atmosphere this week, as the Nashville Predators play the Colorado Avalanche in a home-and-home set which plays an important role in each team's drive towards the post-season. There are currently six teams clustered around the final three playoff spots in the West, and a sweep of this pair of games by either side would be provide a nice boost for the winner, and a telling blow to the loser.

Follow after the jump for a brief preview...

Take the OTF Discount and be there Thursday when the Avalanche come to Smashville!

Tale Of The Tape

Nashville (22-15-4) at Colorado (23-19-1)
NSH Offense vs. COL Defense COL Offense vs. NSH Defense
GF/60 SF/60 Shoot % GA/60 SA/60 Save %
NSH Offense 2.2 (23rd) 26.6 (26th) 8.1 (16th) 2.5 (11th) 30.7 (24th) 920 (11th) NSH Defense
COL Defense 2.5 (11th) 29.7 (14th) 915 (16th) 2.1 (25th) 29.7 (14th) 7.1 (28th) COL Offense
GA/60 SA/60 Save % GF/60 SF/60 Shoot %
Special Teams
GF/60 SF/60 Shoot % GA/60 SA/60 Save %
NSH 5-on-4 7.5 (4th) 50.8 (14th) 14.8 (6th) 6.6 (21st) 52.4 (19th) 874 (17th) NSH 4-on-5
COL 4-on-5 6.2 (17th) 39.9 (3rd) 844 (28th) 6.4 (11th) 53.0 (9th) 12.0 (16th) COL 5-on-4
GA/60 SA/60 Save % GF/60 SF/60 Shoot %

The Shots For & Against story has been improving slowly but surely for the Predators, which you can see graphically depicted at Behind The Net beginning around the 30-game mark, but they still wash out as a slightly underwater team in terms of both Shots & Goals, so continued improvement is still needed if they want to make some noise in the playoffs.

Colorado Avalanche

For a look at how the Avs are rolling these days, I'll kick it over to Cheryl at Mile High Hockey:

Coach Sacco has already said that Semyon Varlamov will start for Colorado. He's playing very well himself lately, coming off a shut out in Chicago as well as four straight wins. Ryan O`Reilly has been hot for the Avalanche, leading the team with 29 points (10g, 19a). The newly formed line of TJ Galiardi, Paul Stastny, and David Jones has also been clicking, combining for four points in its last two games. Of course, Gabriel Landeskog-who was just named to the NHL's All-Star Rookie Team-is one the Predators need to watch.

We already know that former Predators defenseman Shane O`Brien won't play due to a knee injury sustained recently, but the Avs will also miss top forwards Matt Duchene and Peter Mueller, so the relatively healthy Preds may be able to gain some matchup advantages tonight.

Colorado Avalanche Last 5 Games

@ St. Louis Sat 01/07 L 0 - 4
@ Chicago Fri 01/06 W 4 - 0
@ Los Angeles Mon 01/02 SO - W 2 - 1
@ Anaheim Sat 12/31 W 4 - 2
Phoenix Thu 12/29 W 3 - 2

Nashville Predators

In a surprising update this afternoon, Josh Cooper tweeted that Jerred Smithson is doubtful for the game, and that the Preds might roll with 7 defense. That's not a bad idea, as a guy like Ryan Ellis could be deployed in power play and other offensively-oriented situations, for example.

This is Nashville's first meeting with Colorado this season, and they're riding a 5-game winning streak against the Avs going back to February of 2010, a trend they'll definitely want to keep rolling. The guy to watch may be Patric Horqnvist, who has enjoyed a good deal of success against the Avalanche, with 5 goals and 6 assists in 9 career games.

Patric Hornqvist

#27 / Right Wing / Nashville Predators



Jan 01, 1987

2011 - Patric Hornqvist 40 11 7 18 -2 22 3 0 2 108 10.1
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