|Colorado Avalanche||Nashville Predators|
|5-on-5 Close SF/60||28.9||16th||29.8||14th|
|5-on-5 Close SA/60||28.6||13th||27.6||9th|
|5-on-5 Close Save %||.945||2nd||.906||29th|
|# of PP's/Gm||2.94||28th||3.08||27th|
|# of PK's/Gm||3.02||4th||3.06||8th|
While everyone focuses on the exciting group of forwards that Colorado boasts, the real story with the Avalanche has been the lights-out goaltending they've been getting from Semyon Varlamov, who ranks among the league leaders in overall save percentage. Varlamov was the center of the NHL's biggest controversy during the opening weeks of the season, after he was charged with assaulting his girlfriend in November (those charges were dropped a few weeks later).
OK, OK, but enough about the goalie. Which of Colorado's dreamy young scorers catches your eye? 1st overall draft pick Nathan MacKinnon? 2012 Calder Trophy winner Gabriel Landeskog? How about Paul Stastny, the target of a zillion trade rumors over the last few years?
As for leading scorer Matt Duchene, he's apparently arrived ready to strut up and down lower Broadway:
Hey Nashville... I'm comin with my boots on! pic.twitter.com/bk5Cg4MQRQ— Matt Duchene (@Matt9Duchene) January 17, 2014
In many ways, the Avs are like the anti-Predators, loaded with talent up front as opposed to the blueline - in that sense, this sets up to be an entertaining game due to the contrast in styles.
Of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the most flamboyant member of the Avs organization, rookie head coach (and Hall of Fame goaltender) Patrick Roy. Ages ago he was one of the very first pro hockey players I spoke to in a post-game locker room, and by all appearances he hasn't mellowed since his playing days. During stoppages in play tonight, make sure to keep an eye on the Colorado bench to see what the old whackjob is up to.
The main story heading into this game is whether or not new goalie Devan Dubnyk gets his first Nashville start (UPDATE: he's in). His trade from Edmonton earlier this week shook up the fan base here, at a time when it was desperately needed. For a team headed to its second straight non-playoff season, there didn't seem to be much of a sense of urgency to change course.
The Dubnyk trade was especially important because it addressed two major issues on this roster in one stroke. Obviously, the addition of a proven, competent NHL goaltender shores up Nashville's most glaring need, but getting rid of Matt Hendricks and replacing him with just about anybody else (a Milwaukee callup or Rich Clune) is a positive. I understand how people love players like Hendricks, who has an infectious attitude and is clearly a good teammate, but the bottom line is that he was a terribly ineffective player for the Preds.
Being able to ditch his 4-year contract and snag some goalie help in return was a massive coup for David Poile, although we have to point out that it's his own mistake which is being corrected here.
#40 / Goalie / Nashville Predators
May 04, 1986
Can the Predators make a stand on home ice and move past Dallas into 5th place in the Central Division? We'll find out tonight starting at 7:00...
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