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Predators try to get back to winning ways vs. Avs

by Eric Goodman
PREDATORS (41-26-10) at AVALANCHE (28-39-8)


Last 10:
Nashville 8-2-0; Colorado 2-8-0

Season series: This is the last of four games between these clubs. The Predators dominated the previous meetings with three regulation wins by a combined 14-6 score.

Big story: The Predators will look to make a bit of team history Thursday, as a win over the Avalanche would mark the first time in their 12 seasons in the NHL that they have swept the season series from Colorado. Also, the Preds will look to stay in the thick of a very tight Western Conference playoff race as they are the sixth seed with 92 points entering Wednesday night's slate of games. Meanwhile, the Avs will attempt to end the season on a positive stretch after getting just five wins out of their last 30 games played.

Team Scope:

Nashville finds itself battling for home-ice advantage in the first round thanks in large part to a recent six-game winning streak in which it totaled 23 goals. However, that stretch of good fortune ended with a 3-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday. The Preds had a 1-0 lead entering the third period, but the Canucks proceeded to score three unanswered goals. Vancouver outshot Nashville 32-17 and stopped all five of the Preds' chances on the power play.

"I thought our power play wasn't very good today," coach Barry Trotz said. "We haven't had a lot of chances to use it in the last little while, but usually (get) some pretty good zone time and create some chances. Maybe we don't get a goal, but usually we're pretty good."

Colorado had ended a 10-game losing streak with two straight shootout wins on March 19 and 22, but has gone on to drop its last three. The Avs lost two of the three games during their current rough patch by only one goal apiece, including Monday's 5-4 defeat at the hands of the Anaheim Ducks.

The Avalanche now have to turn their attention toward playing an upstart Predators squad that will be very hungry to complete the season series sweep.

"(The Predators are) a good team and they play well," defenseman John-Michael Liles told the Avs website Wednesday. "They're solid defensively and they play hard and in your face. They play together as a team and they're well-coached."

Who's hot: Tuesday's loss to Vancouver ended Preds goaltender Pekka Rinne's six-game winning streak. The 28 year-old Finn remains a viable Vezina Trophy candidate with a .940 save percentage and 2.10 goals against average, which places him second in both categories behind the Bruins' Tim Thomas. … Second-year center Matt Duchene has been burning up the score sheet for the Avalanche lately with 6 goals and 6 assists over his last 10 games played.

Injury report: Predators' left wing Steve Sullivan is out recovering from groin surgery performed on Mar. 5. … Veteran Avalanche defenseman Adam Foote is still questionable with a foot injury, while defenseman Ryan Wilson (knee) remains listed as day-to-day.

Stat pack: Despite being 8-2-0 in their last 10 games, the Preds' struggles on the power play have continued over that span with a 3-for-28 showing with the man advantage.

Puck drop: Trotz is very much aware that no opponent should ever be taken lightly. Despite his Predators appearing to have an easy time with the Avalanche this season, he was sure to give them their due respect when addressing reporters following Wednesday's practice.

"Colorado's a dangerous team," Trotz said. "They've played us tough all year. They got lots of speed, they got lots of skill. Duchene is on fire right now. And they're at home, so they're going to be determined to put a wrench in our plans."

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