A sudden goal-scoring resurgence has brought the Colorado Avalanche back to the .500 mark, but defense has decided their recent meetings with the Nashville Predators.
The Avalanche seek their fourth win in the last five meetings with the Predators and their third consecutive victory overall when the teams meet Thursday night in Nashville.
After a five-game winning streak in October, Colorado's offense fell on hard times. The Avalanche scored more than three goals in a game just once in 14 contests from Oct. 28-Nov. 28, averaging 1.5 goals per game during that 5-9-0 stretch. They seem to have rediscovered their scoring touch in the last two games, though, following Saturday's 4-3 home win over Tampa Bay with a 6-5 victory at Minnesota on Monday night.
Paul Stastny had two goals and an assist against the Wild to lead Colorado, which scored its most goals in a single game this season despite matching a season low with 17 shots on net.
"We're back to .500, now we need to go from here," Stastny said. "I thought earlier we were playing well the last couple of games and we could get a string of wins but we got a big one here."
Dominant defensive efforts have marked games between the Avalanche (12-12-0) and Predators (12-10-2) lately. Three of the five meetings between the teams since the start of last season have been shutouts, and the losing team managed only one goal in the other two games.
Avalanche goalie Peter Budaj has allowed two total goals in his last three starts versus Nashville, and stopped 26 shots in Colorado's 1-0 home victory over the Predators on Nov. 8. Darcy Tucker had the lone score in that matchup - the only previous meeting between these clubs in 2008-09.
Given the way the Predators have been playing lately, they might prefer this game were also in Colorado. They've alternated wins with losses over their last five games, with the three wins coming on the road and the two losses in Nashville. The Predators have dropped three straight at home since their last victory there, a 3-2 decision over Florida on Nov. 1.
Following a 6-2 loss to Minnesota on Saturday in which they allowed five power-play goals, the Predators won 2-0 at Buffalo on Monday, as Jason Arnott's team-leading 13th goal proved the game-winner and Pekka Rinne made 30 saves for his first career shutout. Nashville was whistled for only two penalties against the Sabres, and killed off both.
"We really made (that) an emphasis because we weren't very disciplined at home and it cost us a hockey game," coach Barry Trotz said. "I like the way our guys responded. It says a lot about our team."
The Avalanche are staying afloat despite the continued absences of center Joe Sakic and defenseman Adam Foote due to back injuries. Neither player made the current three-game trip - which concludes Friday at Dallas - and Sakic is expected to miss at least six weeks with a herniated disc.
It's the second straight season marred by a major injury for Sakic, who missed 38 games in 2007-08 due to hernia surgery. Colorado has suffered slightly without him, going 23-19-5 and averaging 2.51 goals per game without him in the lineup the last two seasons compared to a 33-24-2 record and 2.81 scoring average with Sakic on the ice.