The Nashville Predators make their third and final trip to the Mile High City on Saturday, as the Colorado Avalanche faces its Central Division rival for the fourth of five meetings this season.
The Avs are 0-3 this season against the Predators, who enter Saturday's matchup sitting in fourth place in the division. They're 31-30-11 in the all-time series, including an 18-15-4 mark on home ice.
Saturday's game will be the fourth of six afternoon contests for the Avalanche this season and the second of three matinee tilts on home ice. Colorado is 1-2-0 in afternoon games, beating Minnesota 1-0 on Nov. 5 at Pepsi Center and falling 5-1 to the Blues the next day in St. Louis and 4-1 at the Winnipeg Jets on Dec. 18.
Last Time Out
Despite evening the score at one early in the opening period, the Avalanche fell to the Pacific Division-leading Anaheim Ducks 4-1 on Thursday night at Pepsi Center. Nathan MacKinnon scored the lone marker for Colorado, and Matt Duchene finished 14-of-16 on draws, tying a season high for faceoff wins while outdueling the NHL's faceoff percentage leader, Antoine Vermette, against whom he went a perfect 3-for-3.
The Predators took a 2-1 win over the Boston Bruins at home on Thursday night. Austin Watson scored the game's opening tally, extending his goal streak to three games. Filip Forsberg picked up the game-winner late in the second period, and Juuse Saros stopped 35 shots, including all 13 he saw in the third period to seal the win.
Video: Keefe and Rycroft preview the matinee
Last Time They Met
The Avs and Preds last clashed on Dec. 6 at Bridgestone Arena, where Nashville took a 4-3 victory. Colorado was 2-for-4 on the power play as both tallies were off the stick of Duchene, while Nashville's lone man-advantage goal came from Roman Josi on their fifth opportunity of the game and stood as the game-winner. The Avalanche outshot the Predators 13-7 in the third period, but Pekka Rinne stood tall to preserve the win.
What to Watch
The Predators placed forward Colin Wilson and defenseman Roman Josi on injured reserve Friday morning. Wilson had already missed three games, and Josi was injured in Nashville's game against Boston on Thursday night.
Forward James Neal and defenseman P.K. Subban, who are both on injured reserve, were both full participants in Nashville's practice on Friday before making the trip to Denver, but they will not play Saturday.
The Second Period
The middle frame is the highest-scoring stanza for both teams. Nashville ranks third in the league in second-period scoring with 53 goals, which are just eight tallies less than its production in the first and third periods combined. Colorado has scored 29 of its 80 markers this season in the second period, which amounts to 36 percent of its total offense.
The Predators have also allowed a league-low 28 goals in the middle frame. Conversely, Colorado's 45 goals allowed in the second period (1.13 per game) are the fifth-most in the NHL.
Player to Watch
Colorado: Right Wing Mikko Rantanen
Rantanen has notched three points (one goal, two assists) through the first three games of the 2016-17 series against Nashville, tied for the most he's scored against a single opponent this season. Rantanen's 18 points and 12 assists this year rank fourth and third, respectively, on the team, and his four power-play assists put him in a tie for seventh amongst all NHL rookies.
Nashville: Left Wing Filip Forsberg
Forsberg has accumulated seven points (five goals, two assists) in his last nine games, and the Preds are 8-1-1 this season when he lights the lamp. The Swedish winger has two assists in the three games of the season series in 2016-17 but has 14 points (six goals, eight assists) in 14 career outings against the Avalanche, his second-highest total against any team.
Head coach Jared Bednar will tinker with his top two lines for Saturday's contest with the hopes that it leads to increased production, particularly from the second line. Captain Gabriel Landeskog will move to the second line with Matt Duchene and Matt Nieto. Rene Bourque will play on the Nathan MacKinnon-centered first line with Mikko Rantanen.
"We have to be more than a one-line team in order to produce and win games and obviously Matt is a key guy. We've had Landy and Rantanen with MacKinnon, and they've been really good. I'd like to keep them together but we need to make sure that Matt's line is scoring too, so with the addition of Nieto it gives us some speed there," explained Bednar following Friday's practice at Family Sports Center. "Bourque has had success with Rantanen and MacKinnon too. So maybe giving them Landy, just a little bit of a different look can help spark those guys and give us some production on both those lines."
Tickets are still available for Saturday's matinee meeting between the Avs and the Preds, which begins at 1 p.m. MT. The game can be seen live on Altitude TV and heard on Altitude Sports Radio AM950 or online at ColoradoAvalanche.com.