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Predators-Avalanche Preview @NHLdotcom
Predators-Avalanche Preview

GAME: Nashville Predators (24-10-3) at Colorado Avalanche (20-17-3).

TIME: Tuesday, 9 p.m. EST.

Streaks have been a way of life this season for the Nashville Predators.

Nashville will try to avoid its fourth loss in a row when they meet the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center.

The Predators have dropped three in a row after a six-game winning streak was snapped Wednesday with a 4-3 loss to the Vancouver Canucks.

The pattern began when Nashville opened the season with eight straight wins - the longest season-opening winning streak in 30 years. That was followed by five consecutive losses.

Since then, the Predators have posted two four-game winning streaks and a pair of three-game skids.

Nashville's latest losing streak grew after a 4-2 setback Sunday to the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. The Predators fell behind 3-2 in a wild first period in which goaltender Tomas Vokoun faced 21 of 36 shots.

"They threw a lot of rubber at us," said Nashville coach Barry Trotz. "The 21 shots in the first period were embarrassing."

The Predators have allowed 103 shots in their last three games, keeping Vokoun and back up Chris Mason busy. The pair have yielded 11 goals in that span.

Meanwhile, the Predators have scored just two goals in each of their two most recent losses, after scoring three or more goals in nine previous contests.

"You've got to get dirty and gritty in this league to score goals," Trotz said.

Working in Nashville's favor is a five-game winning streak against Colorado going back to Nov. 24, 2003. The Predators also are 4-0-1 in Denver since April 1, 2002.

Colorado is looking to win consecutive games for the first time in almost a month. Since posting wins Nov. 7-9 over the Boston Bruins and New Jersey Devils, the Avalanche have dropped seven of 11.

Colorado is coming off a 5-2 win Saturday over the Phoenix Coyotes after losing the previous night to the San Jose Sharks by the same score.

"I thought we had a tremendous game," coach Joel Quenneville said of the win over the Coyotes. "It was a real good response to a bad performance. All of the areas of our game were rock-solid."

The Avalanche still are looking for consistent goaltending to help them get back into the Northwest Division race. Rookie Peter Budaj appears to have taken over the starting job from veteran David Aebischer and fellow rookie Vitaly Kolesnik.

Budaj is 3-1-0 in his last five appearances, but has allowed 14 goals in that span for a 3.40 goals-against average.

STANDINGS (through Jan. 2): Predators - 51 points, 2nd place, 4 PB, Central Division. Avalanche - 43 points, 4th place, 9 PB, Northwest Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Predators - Steve Sullivan, 17 goals; Kimmo Timonen, 23 assists; Sullivan and Paul Kariya, 34 points; Darcy Hordichuk, 96 PIM. Avalanche - Marek Svatos, 20 goals; Alex Tanguay, 30 assists; Joe Sakic and Tanguay, 43 points; Ian Laperriere, 61 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Jan. 2): Predators - Power play: 18.5 percent (46 for 249), 12th in NHL. Penalty killing: 85.1 percent (212 for 249), 3rd. Avalanche - Power play: 20 percent (49 for 245), 6th. Penalty killing: 84.4 percent (194 for 230), 9th.

GOALTENDERS: Predators - Vokoun (19-7-2, 1 SO, 2.65 GAA); Mason (4-2-1, 0, 2.97). Avalanche - Budaj (6-5-3, 0, 2.80); Aebischer (11-9-0, 1, 3.59).

SEASON SERIES: Predators, 2-0.

LAST MEETING: Dec. 20; Predators, 3-2. At Nashville, Tenn., Scott Hartnell scored an insurance goal midway through the third period and Vokoun finished with 24 saves for the Predators. Sakic assisted on both Colorado goals.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Predators - 8-6-3 on the road; Avalanche - 10-6-3 at home.

Associated Press
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