Nashville Predators: A potential playoff match-up in Colorado? Really?

GLENDALE, AZ - MARCH 15: Kyle Turris
GLENDALE, AZ - MARCH 15: Kyle Turris /

After defeating Arizona last night, the Nashville Predators turn their attention to a surprising Colorado team, who is looking to earn a playoff berth.

It didn’t come easy, but the two points were well-earned. With 102 points on the year, the Nashville Predators are starting to separate themselves from the rest of the Western Conference. They lead the Winnipeg Jets by eight points, Vegas by seven. Furthermore, the Predators lead the Tampa Bay Lightning by two points in the race for the Presidents’ Trophy. There is much on the line for the rest of the season.

However, attention turns to one of the more surprising teams in all of the NHL. The league’s worst team in 2016-17 is in position to earn a playoff berth. It would be their first appearance since winning their division in 2013-14. The current version of the Colorado Avalanche has won six of their last ten, but earned points in 9 straight games. Now, they sit in the top Wild Card spot in the Western Conference and a single point behind Minnesota in the Central Division.

A win for the Avalanche would do more than just put pressure on teams around them. It will build confidence as the playoffs draw nigh. The Predators are 3-0-0 against the Avalanche this year, and have outscored Colorado 13-6 in those games. Should Colorado earn two points tonight, it will provide a boost should the teams meet in the playoffs.

What to watch

Colorado is led by Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen. The young forwards have 60 combined goals and 99 assists. After losing Matt Duchene in a trade, MacKinnon took over and took off. Before the trade, MacKinnon only scored four goals in 14 games. Now, he is on pace for 45 or more goals, 20 more than his previous career high.

As for the Nashville Predators, their balanced scoring gives headaches to opponents. Last night, Kyle Turris, Kevin Fiala, and Ryan Ellis accounted for 6 points (3g, 3a). On Tuesday against the Jets it was Austin Watson and Viktor Arvidsson scoring to push the Predators to victory. While no player ranks high the league, the Predators have seven players with 40+ points and could see seven earn more than 20 goals.

However, one of those players will not be Calle Jarnkrok. After what appears to be a late hit in the game against the Jets, Jarnkrok will miss the rest of the regular season with an upper-body injury. Jarnkrok was smashed against the board from behind more than a second after he played the puck up the ice. The NHL did not announce any action against Winnipeg for the hit.

Both teams are coming off a game last night. Colorado played in St. Louis, heightening the Blues’ rather blue demeanor as MacKinnon and Rantanen both had 2 goals. Semyon Varlamov, the Avalanche’s top goalie started in net, meaning the Predators should see Jonathan Bernier tonight.

Projected Lineup

Being the backend of a back-to-back, look for Juuse Saros to start in net for the Predators. Also, look for Mike Fisher to return, likely to the fourth line with Colton Sisson and Scott Hartnell. Last night, Roman Josi was paired with Anthony Bitetto. I expect the Predators most common pairs on defense to return tonight. The rest of the line should be also per usual, but we will not know until game time. The team did not participate in a morning skate.

Next: Predators earn 100 points

Where to watch

Tonight’s game in Colorado starts at 8:00 p.m. Central and will air on Fox Sports Tennessee. Pregame will begin at 7:30 p.m. Fans can also stream the game on the Fox Sport Go app or listen to the radio broadcast on 102.5 The Game in Nashville.