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At the Rink: Predators at Avalanche

by Rick Sadowski

DENVER -- Finishing first in the Central Division and the Western Conference would be a nice advantage for the Nashville Predators heading into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but coach Peter Laviolette is more concerned with correcting some of the mistakes they have been making lately.

The Predators (47-22-10) trail the St. Louis Blues by one point in the division and they're three points behind the Anaheim Ducks for the conference lead with three games remaining. They play the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center on Tuesday (9 p.m. ET; SPSO, ALT).

Nashville has lost three straight games (0-1-2) and is coming off a 4-3 overtime loss to the Dallas Stars at Bridgestone Arena.

"We're really just concerned about tonight," Laviolette said. "We've kept it kind of simple here. We want to play better, and there's things that certainly we can do better and eliminate mistakes, eliminate some turnovers, be a little better defensively, have a little better coverage, be a little better on the attack on offense.

"Each game has presented some different challenges. Last game I thought we turned the puck over a little too much and it ended up costing us a couple times. There's definitely things that we can do better. We're focusing on the Avalanche and the two points. We'll get to the end of the season at some point, but our group has done a good job of just keeping it short term."

The Predators have gone 6-9-3 since defeating the Avalanche 5-2 on Feb. 24. They subsequently lost six consecutive games in regulation and seemed to get back on track with a 6-2-1 run that preceded this losing streak.

"We're looking more at the process and how we play, what we can do to clean things up and be better," Laviolette said. "The real objective, if we're going to harp on something on our team, it's to play a complete 60 minutes. I think we've just gotten a little bit sleepy in some areas. Maybe the other team picks up their pace a little bit and ours drops a little bit, and that's enough to make a difference in a game. You have to remember that when you're playing other teams, they're good hockey teams. We've got an opponent tonight, this team is capable of hurting you if you take your foot off the gas pedal a little bit and they step on theirs, it's enough to swing a game."

After a surprising first-place finish in the Central Division last season, the Avalanche (36-31-12) are in last place and have been eliminated from the playoffs. They have three games left, all at home.

"It's not where we want to be," center Matt Duchene said. "It almost takes more character to play these games than the ones that mean something. We have fans coming tonight that are paying good money to watch us play. They're loyal and we want to do them proud, so we're playing for them.

"It's tough. We play to win the Stanley Cup; that's the reason we play the game. When you have zero chance of that, it stinks. But we have to take our medicine and be pros and play the best we can. It's about our fans and our own pride in the logo here. I think we're looking at it as a start to next season and we're trying to go into the summer on a good note."

Here are the projected lineups:


Filip Forsberg - Mike Ribeiro - James Neal

Colin Wilson - Mike Fisher - Craig Smith

Viktor Stalberg - Matt Cullen - Mike Santorelli

Gabriel Bourque - Calle Jarnkrok - Taylor Beck

Roman Josi - Shea Weber

Mattias Ekholm - Seth Jones

Ryan Ellis - Cody Franson

Pekka Rinne

Carter Hutton

Scratched: Victor Bartley, Anton Volchenkov

Injured: Paul Gaustad (upper body), Eric Nystrom (lower body)


Gabriel Landeskog - Ryan O'Reilly - Alex Tanguay

John Mitchell - Matt Duchene - Jarome Iginla

Cody McLeod - Marc-Andre Cliche - Dennis Everberg

Jordan Caron - Joey Hishon - Freddie Hamilton

Jan Hejda - Zach Redmond

Nate Guenin - Tyson Barrie

Nick Holden - Brad Stuart

Semyon Varlamov

Reto Berra

Scratched: None

Injured: Patrick Bordeleau (fractured kneecap), Daniel Briere (foot), Erik Johnson (knee), Jamie McGinn (back surgery), Nathan MacKinnon (broken foot), Borna Rendulic (broken leg), Ryan Wilson (shoulder), Jesse Winchester (concussion)

Status report: Gaustad might return to the Predators lineup Tuesday after sitting out Saturday against the Stars because of an upper-body injury. "It certainly was good to get him through the pregame skate again," Laviolette said. "I have to get verification on my players, on who's available to be in the lineup tonight."

Who's hot: Ribeiro has two goals and five assists in his past six games ... Forsberg has three goals and three assists in six games ... O'Reilly has six goals and 12 assists in 16 games ... Duchene has three goals and four assists in six games.

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