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Nashville Predators vs. Colorado Avalanche Preview: Straightening the Curves, Flattening the Hills

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....someday the mountain might get 'em but the Roy never will.

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

This homestand has been electric thus far and it would only be fitting to cap it off with a strong showing against the Avalanche, the only team that could knock Nashville out of the playoffs. A win tonight would punch Nashville's ticket into the second season, and allow the team to start setting the table for the playoffs.

If nothing else this one should be entertaining. It's the Avalanche, the Leeroy Jenkins of the NHL. I assume that all of you have watched highlights of race car accidents on ESPN2/Fox/UPN back in the 90s right? No? Well then. On with it.

The Colorado Avalanche

The Avs are wounded, and are fighting for the playoffs lives like Patrick Roy battles his own self-control. And the results have been similar. The Avs were without both Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon on Saturday, and got pounded by Minnesota in a game they sorely needed.

The team announced that rookie Mikko Rantanen has been re-assigned, which hinted at one of the key Avs' centers is going to tough it out in Nashville tonight. But earlier today, we got this bit of info:

If the Avalanche have any hope of catching the Wild, they'll need to start making hay this week. After tonight's game, they play the two most impressive teams in hockey; a trip to St. Louis on Tuesday, then the Capitals back in Denver on Friday, and then St. Louis visits the Pepsi Center on Sunday. So expect the Avalanche to try their Crazy Ivan style of offense, which means lots of scoring chances. LOTS of them. And remember how much you enjoyed the first period against Columbus?

Heh.

The Nashville Predators

Our local beloved hockey team has been doing mighty fine as of late. While the second line has cooled down a little, the top line is beginning to roll. Why and how? Well, being at home helps. Coach Peter Laviolette is all about line matching, and the deployment of the Ryan Johansen line is no exception. Against the Kings, Johansen only shared the ice with the lovable Anze Kopitar for 1:53 worth of even-strength ice time. Instead, Kopitar played nearly half of his TOI against Mike Fisher's line. And with the second line being among the best in hockey during recent months, the Johansen line has been picking up steam playing against lesser competition due to both the attention that the Ribeiro and Filip Forsberg chemistry commands, as well as some smooth deployment from Laviolette.

Also, Mike Fisher seems to like playing slightly less minutes. The amount of energy he's been playing with has been fun to watch. Example:

Offensively, the plan remains the same. Score goals, get points.

Reasons to Watch

  • Patrick Roy's facial hair turning into ash like a cigarette your aunt forgot about while he was playing slots.
  • When it comes to scoring chances and shot attempts, the Avalanche are the worst team in the second period in the NHL. When you look at their even strength +/- for scoring chances by period, the Avs are a -190 in this department for the second period alone, compared to a -425 for the entire game. Great possession teams tend to do well in the second periods due to the long change. Keep an eye on that.
  • Filip Forsberg and James Neal are content to fight over the team lead in goal scoring. 

Sights and Sounds

7 p.m. Nashville time on FS-TN and 102.5 The Game. Charlie and I will be doing our own pregame on 95.9 WNSR. You're welcome to call and yell at us.