The Colorado Avalanche and Nashville Predators meet tonight at Pepsi Center in the first matchup between the Central Division rivals since the opening round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"These are always fun games, whether we played them in the playoffs or not, it's a top team that we are playing in the league, and we got to make sure that we are ready to go," said Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog.
The Predators, last season's Presidents' Trophy winners with the best regular season record in the league, are off to a hot start in the 2018-19 campaign. The team sits second in the NHL standings with 22 points (11-3-0) in 14 games and will once again be an arduous opponent for the Avs.
Nashville took the first-round series in April, but the Avalanche pushed the set to six games, which ended up being the longest opening series in the Western Conference. Although the clubs know each other well, the focus of the game is still on the points that are up for grabs.
"I think for us, it's a big two points on the line. If anything, we just know how they play a little bit more than maybe another team," said Landeskog. "Familiar with one another, and I am sure they feel the same. It will be a fun game, there are two big points on the line."
Video: Avs captain Gabriel Landeskog on facing Nashville
The Predators have won each of their last three games and are undefeated in each of their six games road outings this season. The team also leads the NHL with a plus-17 goal differential, however Colorado sits third at plus-12.
"I think we matchup pretty good," said Landeskog. "Obviously, they are one of the deeper teams in the league, and we have obviously had some injury problems to some of our guys this year and some bad bounces and what not.
"I think tonight it is not so much about who we are playing, its more about what we are going to do. I know that is something we say all the time, but it's true. It's just a fun test for us, it will be a fun challenge to see where we measure up against these guys."
The outing, which is the first of four between the clubs this campaign, will be Colorado's 15th of the season but just its sixth game at Pepsi Center.
"It's a new season and we know what can happen there," defenseman Samuel Girard said of facing the Predators. "But we are going to have to focus on us and to make sure to play our game, to play good offensively and defensive and to make sure that we are five back in the zone as well."
BUILDING OFF THE GOOD
Colorado last played on Friday at the Vancouver Canucks, a contest the team lost 7-6 in overtime. It was the second of a two-game set in Western Canada, a trip in which the Avalanche only picked up one point but can build on the good from those games.
"You want to get back on track and get back on the winning side of things again. There are some things that we need to clean up," said Landeskog. "There are some things that we weren't happy about after that Canada trip, but there are also some things that we did good, some things that we can do a lot better. [We have to] try to do that and get back on track here at home."
Colorado's home penalty kill ranks tied for second in the league, having gone 14-for-15 through five games at Pepsi Center. The Avs also have a top 10 man-advantage unit overall, finding success 26 percent of the time.
The Preds' power play is currently tied for 30th in the league with an 11.8 percent success rate and their penalty kill is 20th with a 78.3 percent kill rate, but their even-strength play makes up for the special teams.
Video: Avs coach Jared Bednar before game vs. Preds
"Their 5-on-5 play, it's really impressive when you think about it how well they have done with their special teams being where they are at," Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar said of what makes Nashville so strong. "We know they have always had a dangerous power play, one of the best power plays in my opinion in the league, and this year that has struggled a little bit. PK has been average, but their 5-on-5 play has been excellent."
DIVISION RIVAL NIGHT
The outing marks the first of 12 Division Rival Nights that Colorado will host this year. The Avs will wear its new Adidas third jersey at home against each Central Division opponent for the remainder of the season.
Overall, it is the third game the Avs have played against teams in its division through the first 14 games of the campaign. Colorado has played the Minnesota Wild twice already, once in Denver and once in St. Paul.
The next Division Rival Night is when the Avalanche faces the Dallas Stars for the first time this season on Nov. 24.