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At the Rink: Predators at Avalanche

by Rick Sadowski

DENVER -- Calvin Pickard is quite the practical goalie, with logos of the Colorado Avalanche and Lake Erie Monsters painted on his mask. He's played 20 games this season, seven with the Avalanche, and 13 with the Cleveland-based American Hockey League team.

Pickard was recalled for the third time this season Monday and will start for the Avalanche against the Nashville Predators at Pepsi Center on Tuesday because goalie Semyon Varlamov is expected to miss about two weeks with his third groin injury of the season.

"I'm comfortable playing at this level and I'm excited about the confidence they have in me," Pickard said after the morning skate. "We have to get this thing back on the right track. I was playing good hockey down in Cleveland; the team is jelling."

The same can't be said of the Avalanche (9-12-6), who are in last place in the Central Division. They've lost three consecutive games and are 5-6-2 at home.

"It feels like a rollercoaster this season," said center Nathan MacKinnon, who has gone nine games without a goal. "We've had a few good moments, and then it feels like where back to square one. We're hoping that we can finally put together a little stretch here."

Pickard had a 3-2-0 record with a 1.99 goals-against average and .936 save percentage in five games following his Nov. 18 recall from Lake Erie when Varlamov was out with his second groin injury and backup Reto Berra was struggling. He won three consecutive starts in Cleveland after being reassigned Dec. 2.

"It's tough, the injuries we're facing right now," Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said. "It's hard to evaluate our team right now because of it."

The Predators (17-7-2) are opening a three-game road trip that includes stops in Arizona and San Jose. They're coming off a 3-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday, and haven't lost two games in a row this season.

Left wing Filip Forsberg leads the Predators and all NHL rookies in goals (11), points (25), and the League in plus/minus (plus-21). He's had two or more points in a game eight times this season.

"He's been a point-a-game guy this season and that's impressive," said Avalanche captain and fellow Swede Gabriel Landeskog. "It's good to see that he's doing well and I look forward to playing against him."

Here are the projected lineups:


Filip Forsberg - Mike Ribeiro - James Neal

Matt Cullen - Mike Fisher - Craig Smith

Colin Wilson - Calle Jarnkrok - Olli Jokinen

Eric Nystrom - Paul Gaustad - Gabriel Bourque

Roman Josi - Shea Weber

Victor Bartley - Seth Jones

Mattias Ekholm - Ryan Ellis

Pekka Rinne

Carter Hutton

Scratched: Derek Roy

Injured: Taylor Beck (concussion), Viktor Stalberg (lower body), Anton Volchenkov (lower body)


Alex Tanguay - Matt Duchene - Ryan O'Reilly

Gabriel Landeskog - Nathan MacKinnon - Jarome Iginla

Cody McLeod - Maxime Talbot - Daniel Briere

Nick Holden - Paul Carey - Borna Rendulic

Jan Hejda - Erik Johnson

Nate Guenin - Tyson Barrie

Karl Stollery - Zach Redmond

Calvin Pickard

Reto Berra

Scratched: None

Injured: Patrick Bordeleau (back surgery), Marc-Andre Cliche (oblique), Dennis Everberg (separated shoulder), Jamie McGinn (back), John Mitchell (leg), Ben Street (hand), Brad Stuart (hamstring), Semyon Varlamov (groin), Ryan Wilson (shoulder), Jesse Winchester (concussion)

Status report: Gaustad will center the Predators fourth line after missing two games with a lower-body injury ... Volchenkov skated for the second day in a row but will miss his second game in a row ... Beck and Stalberg are not on the trip ... The Avalanche recalled Rendulic on Tuesday from Lake Erie in the AHL, giving them 12 healthy forwards and 20 players. He is expected to arrive in Denver in time to make his NHL debut against Nashville and become the first Croatian-born player to play in the League.

Who's hot: Wilson has a goal in each of the past two games and three goals in four games ... Josi has four assists in the past five games ... Rinne has limited opponents to two goals or fewer in seven of his past nine games with a 7-2-0 record ... Tanguay has two goals and four assists in the past five games ... Barrie has one goal and four assists in five games.

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