It will already be the third meeting of the 2022-23 season between the Nashville Predators and Colorado Avalanche on Friday at Bridgestone Arena. The first two were in Denver, both ending in two-goal victories for the Avalanche.
The Predators are trying to carry a modest two-game winning streak into a division game they badly need. The Avalanche are six points ahead for a wild-card spot.
The Avalanche have been decimated by injuries but found a way to remain competitive and in the playoff picture. Once they get back to full strength, they will be the same force they were that got them a Stanley Cup last summer.
That’s why the Predators, in their third attempt in less than three months, need to take advantage and nab an important two points to make up some divisional ground. The last meeting was a week ago and was close until the end when the Avalanche got an empty netter to win 3-1.
Have the Nashville Predators Found a Reliable Lineup Finally?
I like where this roster has gotten to, despite still being baffled at the mishandling of Eeli Tolvanen. To push that aside, I really love that Tommy Novak is back in the lineup. He earned it and is already making a difference with two points in his first two games back.
It doesn’t happen often anymore, but I have to tip my cap to Head Coach John Hynes for making some serious lineup adjustments that put Novak and Cody Glass in top-six roles, while shifting down Mikael Granlund.
Glass is really ascending quickly into a trustworthy top-six center. He has generated offensive pressure and has been on the wrong end of some stellar goal.
In Saturday’s loss to the Avalanche, Glass stood out in a positive way. He registered six shot attempts, won nine of his 14 faceoffs and was third on the team in Expected Goals Percentage at 5v5.
Not to be overlooked, Ryan McDonagh is back in action too after missing time since December 2. His penalty kill presence is huge, as is his on-ice leadership.
The excuses to not be much better than a .500 team are hard to come by for the Nashville Predators. They have their roster and need to string together a lengthy winning strength to salvage what has been a very underwhelming season to date.
The Avs are Still the Avs….
Nathan MacKinnon is getting closer to returning and might be back as soon as the next week or two. Once he is back, don’t be surprised to see this team run through their schedule and get back into talks for the top spot in the Central Division.
With what they have now, they’re still dangerous. Mikko Rantanen is still on this team, in case you forgot. He leads the Avs with 40 points in 31 games, with 17 power play points.
Cale Makar remains a Norris Trophy contender despite his offensive numbers not jumping off the page like you may expect.
What has really kept the Avalanche afloat during all of the injuries is the goaltending from Alexander Georgiev. He made 25 saves on 26 shots against the Predators on Saturday.
Georgiev has been confirmed by Daily Faceoff to start for the Avs, while the Nashville Predators have yet to confirm either Saros or Lankinen as their starter.
A win over the Avalanche on Friday night would end a current six-game losing streak to the Avs, including the first round sweep back in May.
It’s critical that the Predators keep this at 5v5 even strength hockey and avoid putting their penalty kill to the test. They smothered the Oilers in their own zone on Monday and only had blemishes defensively when they were down a man on special teams.
This has to be the formula for the Nashville Predators to win games. At 5v5, the Predators are much more able to play their style of game, which is hard forechecking, clogging shot lanes on both ends of the ice, and letting your big guy between the pipes keep the score close.
Oddly enough, I have a weird confidence about this game for the Predators. They know what adjustments they need to make from six days ago, and also what worked to keep the Avs to just two goals until the empty netter.
It’s a busy night in the NHL with 11 games before the Christmas break. The Nashville Predators will take on the division leading Dallas Stars after a three-day break.