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Colorado Avalanche vs. Nashville Predators Preview: Welcome Back Wilson

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Colin Wilson makes his return to Nashville in the season’s first matchup between the Avs and Predators.

NHL: Colorado Avalanche at Nashville Predators Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Bridgestone Arena is the destination for Tuesday night’s match-up between the Nashville Predators and Colorado Avalanche, who hold a three-point advantage over the Preds in the Central Division.

Seriously.

Are the Avalanche a “good” hockey team? It’s too early to tell. But this contest in Smashville should be an early determining factor for whether or not Colorado is a walkover like years past.

Onto the preview...

The Colorado Avalanche

In typical Colorado fashion, the Avs made minimal moves in the offseason, with the most notable being the trade to acquire Colin Wilson from Nashville in exchange for a 2019 fourth-round pick. “Playoff Colin Wilson” will never be seen again (unless a miracle happens) but it will be a nice homecoming on Tuesday for Wilson who logged nearly 500 games in a Preds sweater.

From a goaltender perspective, the Avalanche signed former Anaheim backup Jonathan Bernier to a one-year deal. Bernier has been solid, as has Semyon Varlamov with a 3-1 record and .944 save percentage which ranks fifth in the NHL. Combined, the two netminders have helped Colorado earn the fourth-best goals against average in the league.

Two of Colorado’s forward acquisitions have payed dividends early on – Nail Yakupov and Alexander Kerfoot. Yak never lived up to the hype in Edmonton and only played 40 games with St. Louis last season, but the Avs gambled on him. Four of his five points this season came in two meetings against the Bruins. Kerfoot was a college free agent, originally drafted by the Devils in 2012, and is now playing on Colorado’s second line with Matt Duchene. As a unit, the line has produced nine points – six of those by way of Duchene who has tallied all six at even strength.

Top line members Sven Andrighetto, Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen (10-29-96, probably someone’s birthday) have done their damage on the power play, alongside Gabriel Landeskog and top defenseman Tyson Barrie. That group has totaled eight points on the man advantage.

If you’re curious about Wilson, he’s got one assist in 13:40 average ice time, which is down from his ~14:30 mark in Nashville.

The Nashville Predators

The Predators enter Tuesday with a sour taste in their mouths after falling in overtime to the team from Chicago.

The good news is they’re back in Bridgestone Arena, where the Preds are unbeaten this season and have not lost to the Avalanche since March 28, 2016. Nashville swept the series 5-0 last season, including scoring three or more goals in each meeting.

Nashville is coming off their best defensive game of the campaign in Chicago, shutting down Patrick Kane and company for two and a half periods before the tables turned late in the third and of course, overtime. Pekka Rinne was outstanding in net, while the fourth line of Miikka Salomaki, Colton Sissons and Austin Watson played lockdown D in crucial moments. Sissons in particular was great stepping up once Nick Bonino left with a lower body injury. Early reports don’t sound promising on Bonino, so Sissons will be asked to play bigger minutes.

I think Craig Smith is due for a breakout game soon, and this is the type of matchup that will favor him. In last season’s opening game against the Avs, Smitty potted two goals en route to a 5-1 victory in Denver.

Flashback

Last time against the Avs, Filip Forsberg did this.

Reasons to Watch

· A warm welcome and deserved video package for Wilson.

· What will Scoresberg do next?

· P.K. Subban has six points in his last three starts. He’s been stellar.

· Roman Josi should return to the lineup tonight. Expect him to team with Matt Irwin again while Mattias Ekholm stays with Samuel Girard.

· Maybe someone will actually find Calle Jarnkrok. Hopefully.

· Fans will get a good look at future Nashville Predator Matt Duchene.

How to Watch

Puck drop from Nashville will take place at 7 p.m. Willy and Mason will call the game on Fox Sports Tennessee, while 102.5 The Game carries the radio broadcast.