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Game Day: Preds vs. Avalanche

by Thomas Willis & Brooks Bratten / Nashville Predators

(47-22-10) Nashville Predators vs. Colorado Avalanche (36-31-12)
  8 P.M. | Pepsi Center
TV: SportSouth | Radio: 102.5 The Game | Nissan Pregame: 7:30 P.M.

The Nashville Predators begin the final week of the 2014-15 regular season with a contest against the Colorado Avalanche tonight in Denver. It's the fifth and final meeting between the two this season and game No. 80 out of 82 on the campaign for the Preds.

Nashville most recently fell on Saturday night to Dallas by a 4-3 final in overtime, going winless in their last three contests. However, the Preds have gained at least one point in seven of their last eight outings and currently sit second in the Central Division with 104 points, just one point behind first place St. Louis.

Colorado suffered a 3-1 loss on Saturday to Los Angeles and currently sits 12th in the Western Conference and out of the playoff picture.

Filip Forsberg recorded his 15th multi-point game of the season on Saturday against Dallas (1g-1a) to move into a tie among both League rookies and Preds skaters in points this season (24g-37a-61pts). With his first-period goal, Forsberg became the Preds’ second player to hit 60 points this season, along with Mike Ribeiro, and just the 12th rookie since 2005-06 to achieve the mark. The last time Nashville had two players with 60 or more points was 2007-08 when J-P Dumont and Jason Arnott finished with matching 72-point seasons.

Ribeiro’s assist on James Neal’s third-period, extra-attacker goal to tie the score at three on Saturday was the 500th assist of his NHL career. The milestone mark comes less than a week after the Montreal native surpassed Arnott (44, 2007-08) for most assists by a Preds’ center in franchise history (46), a season assist total that sits in the Top 10 among all NHL players this season.

Ribeiro has seven points (2g-5a) in his last six games and is tied for the Preds lead in points (15g-46a-61pts). While playing in all 79 of Nashville’s games this season, the 6-0, 180-pound center has led team forwards in average time on ice (18:43) and is tied for the top spot on the team in points-per-game (.77).

Neal, Matt Cullen and Shea Weber all returned to the Preds’ lineup on Saturday against the Stars after missing time due to injury. Weber led Nashville in time on ice (26:34) and shots (5), while also recording two hits and one blocked shot. Cullen, who had 11 points (2g-9a) in 16 games prior to the injury that led him to miss five contests, led Nashville in face-off win percentage (56 percent) versus Dallas. After not playing since March 12 at San Jose (nine games missed), Neal returned to the Preds’ lineup and tallied his ninth multi-point game of the season (1g-1a). 

Gabriel Landeskog is Colorado's leading point-getter at 57, with Jarome Iginla (56), Alex Tanguay (54), Ryan O'Reilly (54), Matt Duchene (53) and Tyson Barrie (51) all reaching the 50-point mark for the Avs. Landeskog, Iginla, Tanguay and Duchene have all hit the 20-goal plateau, with Iginla leading with 26.

In the goal crease, Semyon Varlamov holds a 26-20-8 record to go along with a 2.58 goals-against average, .920 save percentage and five shutouts. Colorado is 4-5-1 in their last 10 games and owns a 20-15-3 record this season at Pepsi Center.

Tuesday’s game against the Avalanche is Nashville’s second of four consecutive games against a fellow Central Division team to close out the 2014-15 regular season, and the first Central Division road game for the Preds since Jan. 30, also in Colorado. The four-game stretch comes on the heels of the Preds month of March, where Nashville faced just two Central Division teams. Overall, the Preds are 15-7-4 against the Central Division and 6-2-2 against them as the visiting squad.

Dating back to Nov. 8, 2008, the Predators are 17-8-3 against the Avalanche, including an 8-0-0 mark from Jan. 20, 2011, to April 7, 2012. All-time, Nashville is 28-24-(5)-3 versus Colorado and 14-14-(2)-2 in the Mile High City.

Predators Game Day Video:

What to Watch for: Brent and Willy's Breakdown

Morning Skate Update:

The Preds morning skate saw full participation from the players that made the trip to Denver.

Forward Paul Gaustad (upper-body) skated in line rushes, continuing to build on the progress he made Monday by taking part in practice. The 33-year-old missed Nashville's game versus Dallas on Saturday due to injury. Forward Mike Santorelli (illness), who also missed the Preds 4-3 overtime loss to the Stars, participated in this morning's session and in Monday's practice.

Eric Nystrom remains out with a lower-body injury.

Tonight's expected starters in goal are Pekka Rinne and Semyon Varlamov.
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