Following a successful two-game home stand, the Nashville Predators begin a five-game road trip this afternoon in Colorado against the Avalanche. It's the third and final visit to Denver for the Preds this season; Nashville has won both of the previous meetings in Colorado and is 3-0-0 overall versus the Avalanche this season.
Yesterday morning, the two clubs got together on a trade which saw the Preds acquire veteran forward Cody McLeod from Colorado in exchange for forward Felix Girard. In 659 career games, McLeod has amassed 1,359 penalty minutes and 117 points.
The Predators placed forward Colin Wilson (lower-body) and defenseman Roman Josi (upper-body) on Injured Reserve on Friday, with both expected to be out of the lineup against the Avalanche.
Nashville is coming off a 2-1 win over the Boston Bruins on Thursday night, with Filip Forsberg scoring his 10th of the season and Juuse Saros making a career-high 35 saves for his fourth win on the campaign.
Ryan Johansen continues to lead the Preds in scoring with 29 points, followed by Forsberg with 26. Mike Fisher and Viktor Arvidsson have 25 points apiece; Fisher has scored on 11 occasions while Arvidsson has 10 markers. Forward Austin Watson has scored in three-straight games. James Neal is Nashville's leading goal scorer with 14. Goaltender Pekka Rinne is 15-11-6 on the season; Saros is 4-3-1.
Colorado (13-26-1) lost 4-1 to Anaheim on Thursday coming out of a five-day break and sit at the bottom of the League standings. Nathan MacKinnon leads the team with 28 points, followed by Matt Duchene with 24. Duchene has 13 goals on the season; MacKinnon has 11. Semyon Varlamov has gone 6-15-0 in net for the Avalanche and is expected to start this afternoon.
Morning Update: The Predators recalled defenseman Petter Granberg and assigned forward Pontus Aberg to Milwaukee (AHL) this morning. Winger James Neal was activated from Injured Reserve, while d-man Roman Josi and forward Colin Wilson were placed on IR.
As the Preds look for a successful start away from home, here are three things to watch for:
Nice to Meet You:
The Preds may have someone particularly familiar with the opposition in the lineup this afternoon. Cody McLeod, acquired yesterday from Colorado, is expected to add elements of toughness and leadership to the Nashville locker room, something that would be welcomed from his new club.
"He's a guy that we're used to seeing in the division, a guy that plays the game hard," forward Austin Watson said. "He's a physical player, a good veteran presence, so it's a guy that can add that to our locker room."
After suffering an upper-body injury on Thursday, the Predators placed defenseman Roman Josi on Injured Reserve the next day, leaving another hole in the lineup. Colin Wilson went to IR as well on Friday, with a lower-body injury, and James Neal and P.K. Subban remain on Injured Reserve.
The Predators know they have no choice but to continue to plow ahead, and they'll look for contributions from other players who will now receive added responsibilities.
"Any time you lose a guy in your lineup, it's tough," defenseman Ryan Ellis said. "Guys like Neal, Subban, Josi, they're irreplaceable. It just means that the guys that are out there have to step up even more, and we're going to need a full team effort."
Nashville will play their next five games away from Bridgestone Arena, tied for their longest road trip of the season. After a rough start on the road to begin 2016-17, the Preds have started to find some more confidence away from home. The team points to a similar road trip around this time last year that saw them sweep through Western Canada at the end of January, and the opportunity exists once more to build off their two consecutive victories and get something going.
"Hopefully this will be a defining moment in our season," Ellis said. "Last year, it was at this time, and if we can have a successful road trip, we'll be trending in the right direction. The way we've been playing lately with the energy and speed, if that continues, I think we'll like the outcome."
Take It In:
This afternoon's game comes with a 2 p.m. CT start, beginning with Predators Live! pregame on Fox Sports Tennessee at 1:30 p.m. Willy Daunic, Stu Grimson and Lyndsay Rowley handle the television side, while Pete Weber and Chris Mason call the action on the Preds Radio Network.