CENTENNIAL, Colo.--After four days to rest and prepare, the Colorado Avalanche returns to game action Wednesday night when the team hosts the Nashville Predators at Pepsi Center.
It will be the first time the clubs' have met since their first-round series in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs in April and marks first of 12 Division Rival Nights the Avalanche will host this year. Colorado will wear its new Adidas third jersey at home against each Central Division opponent for the remainder of the season.
The Avs are coming off a two-game road trip in Western Canada where they only picked up one point during their back-to-back contests at the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks, but the players are still confident in the direction the squad is going.
"I think we've done a good job of playing really well in every game," said forward Colin Wilson. "Even in the games we've lost, we've been in every game, it's been close. I think we're confident as a team. It doesn't matter who we are playing, we can win."
The Predators--last year's Presidents' Trophy winners, who finished the regular season with the best record in the league--will be a formidable test for the Avalanche. Nashville has returned to its spot at the top of the leagues standings at 11-3-0 and is undefeated on the road so far.
"I think there is a hunger to their team at the start of this year," said head coach Jared Bednar when analyzing the Preds. "They went to the Final two years ago, they had a real good season last year and then came up short. I see a little more fire out of their group this year than I saw through the regular season last year, hence their start. I think they're good at home, I think they're 6-0 on the road now. They're a team that is firing on all cylinders. We know they have the ability to be a Cup contender and they are certainly playing that way early in the season."
Colorado pushed its Round 1 playoff series versus Nashville to six games, which ended up being the longest opening series in the Western Conference.
"I like the way we matched up against them last year," Wilson said of the Predators. "The way we played against them, we were really strong. It should be a good game."
Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov will get the start in net for the game. He missed the entire playoff series after injuring his knee late in the season.
Tickets for Colorado's Division Rival Night game versus Nashville are still available.
Forward Tyson Jost was a full participant in the Avs' near hour-long practice, taking contact for the first time since suffering a head injury on Oct. 26 versus the Ottawa Senators.
Jost is making steady progress after skating with the team in a non-contact jersey at Colorado's last on-ice session on Sunday. After missing three games, Bednar said Jost will likely be an option for the Avs to use on Wednesday.
"We'll have to wait and see how he gets through today," Bednar said. "Check on him again tonight and again tomorrow morning and then make a decision on what we want to do with our lineup."
Jost took reps on a line with Gabriel Bourque, Marko Dano and Vladislav Kamenev on Tuesday and is anxious to get back into a game, whenever that might be.
"Obviously you don't want to be out with an injury, it's the last thing that you want," he said. "I'm just excited to go back in and play my game and get back to the way that I know how to play. It's an exciting time right now for us. We didn't have the best road trip that we wanted, so we're excited to get back in that win column and start playing Avs hockey again."
Jost wasn't the only banged up forward that is making progress, as Sven Andrighetto skated for the first time since getting hurt on Oct. 27 at the Minnesota Wild. He has missed the past two outings with a lower-body injury but could travel with the club on its next road trip beginning on Friday if things keep going well.
Andrighetto skated with J.T. Compher in red, non-contact jerseys prior to the team session.
Compher has been out for the past nine contests with a head injury.
Head Coach Jared Bednar on Matt Calvert playing with the Avs' first power-play unit: "No. 1, he's on pucks all the time for retrievals. He's strong. He has the skill to make plays out there. No. 2, I would like to give him a little more responsibility and more opportunities. He's played well for us, and he's scored in the past. Maybe not as much at the NHL level, but we got to pick between a handful of guys and keep that other unit together."
Video: Head coach Jared Bednar after a full-team practice
Center/Left Wing Colin Wilson on Colorado's recent play: "I think we just need to get back to what we were doing earlier in the season. I think we took care of our D-zone a little better. Even though they put up a few goals on us against Vancouver, I thought it was better than in Calgary. Just keep improving and stick to what we know."
Video: Colin Wilson talks about the Avs after practice
Center Tyson Jost on learning by watching the Avs play while he's out with an injury: "I was watching a lot of hockey. I was just trying to be a student of the game and try and always get better, even when you're not playing."
Video: Jost on returning to practice as a full participant
PRACTICE LINE COMBINATIONS
Gabriel Landeskog - Nathan MacKinnon - Mikko Rantanen
Sheldon Dries - Alexander Kerfoot - Colin Wilson
Matt Nieto - Carl Soderberg - Matt Calvert
Gabriel Bourque - Vladislav Kamenev - Marko Dano - Tyson Jost
Patrik Nemeth - Erik Johnson
Samuel Girard - Ian Cole
Nikita Zadorov - Tyson Barrie