The Nashville Predators are in Colorado tonight to play the Avalanche in a game that goes beyond being a "must win" situation. The Preds are in a dogfight in the Western Conference for a playoff spot and postseason positioning and cannot afford a loss.
The Predators are coming off a 3-1 loss to Vancouver on Tuesday that broke their six game winning streak. For the first half of the season, all of their regulation losses came in streaks as did their wins. Fans are hoping that the loss was an anomaly and that the team can bounce back in a game that on paper that they should clearly win.
This is the final meeting of the year between the two teams. The Predators have won all three games so far with the most recent being on March 12 in Nashville which was a 4-2 win. A month earlier, there was a circus type atmosphere leading up to the game in Nashville on February 12 which was the Predator debut of Mike Fisher and what would end up being Peter Forsberg's final NHL game. The Preds won that game 5-3 in a big comeback. Their other meeting was in Colorado on January 20 when the Preds won 5-1 and were flying high during one of their better stretches of the season.
This meeting is totally different. The Avalanche have won only three times since January 24 and have looked horrible in most games. They basically have nothing to lose. The Predators fell to seventh place last night when Anaheim virtually eliminated Calgary in a 4-2 win and slipped past the Preds.
Barry Trotz was asked how to prepare for the Colorado game after playing the best team in the league. "Show up and play, play hard. How do you do it? You come committed, knowing that you have to have a lot of determination and urgency."
"Colorado is a dangerous team. They've played us tough all year. They've got lots of speed. They've got lots of skill. Duchene is on fire right now and they are at home. They are going to be very determined to put a wrench into our plans."
Pekka Rinne (30-21-8, 2.10, .929) will be in net for the Predators while it is anyone's guess who will start for the Avalanche. Either Peter Budaj (13-18-4, 3.29, .891) or Brian Elliott (15-25-9, 3.33, .893) could get the start for Colorado.
Update: Looks like it is Elliott tonight vs. the Predators according to @TheGoalieGuild: Brian Elliott the first goalie off for Colorado.
After the game, the Predators will return home and prepare for the game with Detroit on Saturday that has a special 2 p.m. start.
Other previews come from Amanda Dipaolo, Robby Stanley, Predatorial, Marc Torrence, The Tennessean, Fang Faction, and Predators.com.
For previews from Denver check out Adrian Dater, Aaron Musick, Mile High Hockey, The Avalanche Guild, Jibblescribbits, and AvsHockeyPodcast.
In Preds Nation...
David Poile will be on the NHL Hour with Gary Bettman today at 5 p.m. on XM NHL Home Ice and the NHL.com.
David Boclair has interesting numbers on the Predators regulation wins.
Brian Mullen has an update on Steve Sullivan and Cal O'Reilly and neither are close to a return. He also has a feature on Joel Ward and a few notes.
Paul McCann has a valid rant about the Tennessean's editorial bias against the Predators.
Robby at HNIN calls for the Preds to end their streaky tend this year.
Pierre LeBrun places Pekka Rinne second in the Vezina race behind Tim Thomas.
Ryan Ellis is called one of the most highly decorated junior hockey players of the decade at Hockey's Future.
J.R. Lind guests at On the Forecheck with a hockey related real estate post.
In what some might consider an upset, Pekka Rinne won the OTF March Madness competition which clearly marks him as the Preds MVP (and Hart candidate).
The Milwaukee Admirals clinched a playoff berth with a 3-2 win over San Antonio last night.
Around the NHL...
Rob Rossi broke the news that Sidney Crosby will travel to Florida today after a day off ans has been cleared to practice with the team. Craig Custance says that Crosby may still not see the ice this season.
Ryan Miller is injured with an "upper body injury" and did not play last night in the Sabres 1-0 win over the Rangers.
In a couple of surprise games last night, the Blues annihilated Detroit 10-3, and a desparate Carolina team beat Montreal 6-2 to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Down goes Brown may have the best look at the Awards voting that I've seen.
Tuesday night marked the final game for Oilers broadcast legend Rod Phillips. TSN dropped the ball by not showing the pre-game ceremony where the 3542 game banner was raised to the rafters. I heard an interview with Phillips and when he was hired he had never done a hockey play-by-play before.
RLD Hockey does a reset with the Olympic point system. Toronto fans would like it.
Best wishes in recovery to Manny Malhotra after successful eye surgery.
As much as I would like to see Barry Trotz win the Jack Adams, if I had a vote, Dan Bylsma would get it at this point. Here is an Adam Kimelman piece on how he has cobbled together the season with injuries and distractions.
Odds and Ends...
NASA's Messenger satellite is orbiting Mercury and is sending back high quality photos. It's hard to believe that this is a first. Here is more detail about the mission that began in 2004.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass