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Avalanche coach Roy impressed by Predators

by Rick Sadowski / NHL.com

PREDATORS (31-10-6) at AVALANCHE (20-18-11)

TV: FS-TN, ALT

DENVER -- Colorado Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said this season's Nashville Predators remind him of last season's Avalanche.

The Predators, who play the Avalanche on Friday at Pepsi Center, are leading the Central Division under coach Peter Laviolette, who replaced Barry Trotz in May.

Roy, in his first season with the Avalanche last season, led the Avs to the Central title.

"It's a very confident team," Roy said of the Predators (31-10-6), who are two points behind the Anaheim Ducks for the best record in the League after missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season. "It's a team that really believes in themselves. Their coaching staff deserves a lot of credit for that."

The Predators are 9-1-4 in their past 14 games and are 2-1-2 since losing goalie Pekka Rinne because of a sprained knee sustained Jan. 13 in a game against the Vancouver Canucks. Carter Hutton has started all five games since Rinne was injured, including a 5-4 shootout loss to the St. Louis Blues on Thursday. Marek Mazanec could start Friday.

The Predators didn't have a morning skate Friday.

Roy had high praise for Predators left wing Filip Forsberg, who leads all NHL rookies with 17 goals and 42 points. He had two goals and one assist in the first two games against the Avalanche, a 3-0 Predators win Dec. 9 in Denver and a 4-3 overtime win Tuesday in Nashville.

"He's done a lot of good things that sometimes are not as noticeable," Roy said. "He's playing really good hockey right now."

The Avalanche (20-18-11) are trying to find their way into the playoff picture in the Western Conference. They're 7-2-1 in the past 10 homes games and 11-5-5 overall since Dec. 11, but they still trail the Calgary Flames by four points for the second wild-card spot. The Flames also have a significant lead in regulation/overtime wins (23-14).

"We've been playing good hockey, especially defensively," Roy said. "We need a good start tonight, some good jump. What we'd like to see is good intensity and to be able to maintain that level for 60 minutes."

Here are the projected lineups:

PREDATORS

Filip Forsberg - Mike Ribeiro - Craig Smith

Colin Wilson - Mike Fisher - James Neal

Matt Cullen - Calle Jarnkrok - Gabriel Bourque

Eric Nystrom - Paul Gaustad - Olli Jokinen

Roman Josi - Shea Weber

Mattias Ekholm - Seth Jones

Anton Volchenkov - Victor Bartley

Marek Mazanec

Carter Hutton

Scratched: Taylor Beck

Injured: Ryan Ellis (lower body), Pekka Rinne (sprained knee)

AVALANCHE

Alex Tanguay - Matt Duchene - Jarome Iginla

Gabriel Landeskog - Ryan O'Reilly - Nathan MacKinnon

Cody McLeod - John Mitchell - Dennis Everberg

Maxime Talbot - Marc-Andre Cliche - Daniel Briere

Jan Hejda - Zach Redmond

Nate Guenin - Tyson Barrie

Nick Holden - Brad Stuart

Semyon Varlamov

Reto Berra

Scratched: Stefan Elliott

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

Status report: Rinne will miss his sixth straight game Friday but could return as early as Tuesday at home against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Predators didn't skate Friday but Rinne took turns with Mazanec in one net during the morning skate Thursday before the Predators played the St. Louis Blues.

Who's hot: Ribeiro has one goal and four assists in a three-game scoring streak. ... Forsberg has two goals and one assist in a three-game streak. ... Fisher has six goals and four assists in the past nine games. ... Jones has a goal and four assists in six games. ... Duchene has one goal and two assists in a three-game point streak. ... Iginla has five goals and two assists in nine games.

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