Tonight the Nashville Predators return to the scene where Roman Josi was concussed in the second game of the season, but of course the villain from that episode, Steve Downie, has since been traded to Philadelphia. Can the Preds keep their offense rolling against the top team in the Central Division?
|Nashville Predators||Colorado Avalanche|
|5-on-5 Close SF/60||30.2||14th||32.4||6th|
|5-on-5 Close SA/60||29.0||13th||27.9||11th|
|5-on-5 Close Save %||.935||8th||.969||1st|
|# of PP's/Gm||3.07||27th||3.23||25th|
|# of PK's/Gm||3.50||14th||3.38||11th|
The Avs are the NHL's version of Wiley Coyote, who has run right off a cliff, legs pumping, still moving along, but oblivious to the inevitable plummet which awaits him. They're getting ridiculously hot goaltending these days, especially for a team which such a poor history of defensive hockey, and it's hard to believe that's going to last.
One could also say the same for a Nashville Predators offense which is scoring goals on a paltry 5.6% of their shots in 5-on-5 action. Something around 8% is more typical, and while that may not sound like a big shift, it would actually represent roughly a 40% jump in goal scoring rates!
Let's hope the Lords of Regression hold sway tonight, eh?
The big news in Denver these days is whether the Avs' hot start (including their current 6-game winning streak) can keep rolling, in light of the domestic abuse charges filed against #1 goaltender Semyon Varlamov. Head coach Patrick Roy went ahead and started Varlamov Friday night in Dallas, and it seems like the team will keep the work & criminal situations separate until things sorts themselves out.
Colorado Avalanche Injuries
In a rather interesting development, it sounds like forward Ryan O'Reilly is introducing a new dynamic to the Colorado locker room, trying to turn his teammates on to the benefits of yoga:
Hockey practice offers O'Reilly the opportunity to hone his on-ice skills, but his yoga practice has helped guide him in life and the NHL. The 22-year-old is a devout believer in the ancient Indian physical, mental and spiritual disciplines. On Monday the majority of the Avs practiced yoga together for the first time in team history under the guidance of an instructor brought in by the team's physical therapist.
O'Reilly, of course, is just one of a number of talented Colorado forwards who will challenge Nashville defenders on just about every shift. Last summer's #1 overall draft pick Nathan McKinnon is off to a productive start with two goals and seven assists through 13 games, but it's Matt Duchene (3rd overall choice in 2009) who's leading the way these days with nine goals and five assists.
Perhaps what's most amazing, however, is the broad-based nature of the Colorado attack. Despite scoring the 4th-most goals in the league as a team, they don't boast a single player in the league's Top 30!
For more on the Avalanche, make sure you head over to Mile High Hockey.
Due to a rough (though victorious) night in Los Angeles last Saturday, the Preds may not have many decisions to make up front, as Mike Fisher got hurt in a collision with Dustin Brown, while Matt Hendricks was injured against Phoenix a couple nights earlier; both are uncertain to play tonight. That leaves only a choice on the back end, where Victor Bartley has been the odd man out lately, sitting out the first two games of this road trip.
One guy to keep an eye on tonight is Patric Hornqvist, who is not only on a roll lately (he was dynamite in a 3-assist effort at Los Angeles), but he has typically done well against Colorado. In 17 career games against the Avs, Hornqvist has 8 goals and 8 assists, along with 70(!) shots on goal.
In goal, it looks like we'll have to ride the Carter Hutton express for longer than expected, if last night's reports about Pekka Rinne's hip infection turn out be true. The question of whether the team should make a move to bring in an experienced NHL netminder is being hotly debated by fans, but it's very difficult to make such a move at this time of year - the options are limited, and the situation is still uncertain at best. Does David Poile proceed as if he expects Rinne back in the lineup around New Year's (which might argue against a trade), or does he take the stance that such a long layoff could impact Rinne's ability to get back to top form at all this season? These are foggy waters indeed.
Personally, I lean towards the conservative option of playing Hutton and the kids; it serves as an opportunity to evaluate where these guys are competitively, and trading away hockey assets for a goalie to help this team hang around the edge of playoff contenders seems like an unwise investment. To me this has always been more of a developmental/transitional season for the Nashville Predators, so making deals to boost short-term performance doesn't make sense.
Let's see how the boys do when they need to focus on bailing out their goalie rather than relying on the opposite holding true.
Game time is 8:30 p.m. tonight on Fox Sports TN, so make sure to come back later for the game thread! And if you didn't like this game preview, make sure to check out Mouthguard's...
More from On the Forecheck:
- Report: Pekka Rinne Hip Infection To Keep Him Out 6-8 Weeks
- Jason Arnott Retires: Former Nashville Predators Captain Hangs Up His Skates
- Ray Emery vs Richie Incognito: Let Two Wrongs Make Some Right
- Tuesday's Dump & Chase: It's Another Off-Day!
- Nashville Predators Recall Marek Mazanec From Milwaukee, Send Magnus Hellberg Down