NHL Preview from The Sports Network|
Thursday, February 4th
(All times eastern)
Colorado Avalanche (31-18-6) at Nashville Predators (30-21-4), 8 p.m.
(Sports Network) - After finishing with the fewest points in the Western
Conference last year, some fresh faces have helped the Colorado Avalanche put
together a quick turnaround.
Colorado will try to win for the eighth time in its last 11 games tonight as
it closes out its season series with the Nashville Predators at Sommet Center.
The Avalanche went just 32-45-5 last year for 69 points, 10 fewer than the
next team in the West. However, the club is right in the playoff hunt this
year thanks to a 31-18-6 mark that has it sixth in the standings and two
points behind Vancouver for first place in the Northwest Division.
The offseason signing of Craig Anderson has certainly helped. Anderson made 27
starts with Florida last year and parlayed that into a deal with the Avalanche
to be their No. 1 goaltender. He is 27-14-5 with a 2.43 goals-against average
in 47 starts, going 7-3-0 with a 1.49 GAA over 10 consecutive starts.
Anderson made 20 saves in Tuesday's 5-1 win over Columbus that snapped
Colorado's three-game losing streak. The offense, meanwhile, came from a trio
of rookies, as Ryan O'Reilly scored two short-handed goals, Brandon Yip also
scored twice and T.J. Galiardi notched a career-high four assists.
Kyle Quincey scored Colorado's first goal after the Blue Jackets drew first
blood with a first-period short-handed tally.
"We all knew that we had to step it up," said O'Reilly, a 2009 second-round
pick. "Them getting that first goal was good for them, but we had to regroup
from there. We definitely knew it wasn't going to be an easy game but we
stayed to our game, just kept working hard and got a few bounces."
O'Reilly, who picked up both of his short-handed markers while Paul Stastny
was serving a double-minor for high sticking in the third period, notched his
first two-goal game since November 6 and the second of his career.
Yip, who also posted his second ever two-goal game and his first since
December 31, and another rookie -- 2009 third overall pick Matt Duchene --
both scored in the Avalanche's 2-1 home win over the Predators on January 22.
Anderson has started all three of Colorado's games versus Nashville this year,
going 1-1-1 with a 2.64 GAA.
Nashville has won seven of its last 10 at home over Colorado and is tied with
Detroit and Calgary for the final two playoff spots in the West, four points
back of the Avs in the standings. The Preds fell to 1-0-1 on a four-game
homestand after Tuesday's 1-0 shootout loss to the Phoenix Coyotes that lasted
Pekka Rinne made 26 saves in his second start in a row for Nashville, but was
beat by Lauri Korpikoski in the second round. However, David Legwand answered
for the Predators and no skater scored again until Adrian Aucoin's wrist shot
beat Rinne in the 10th round. Shea Weber then failed to extend the extra
Rinne was credited with his third shutout of the season and 10th of his
career, even as the Predators fell to 1-5-1 in their last seven games overall.
Rinne could get the start again tonight and is 1-1-0 with a 2.46 GAA in two
encounters versus Colorado this year.
The Predators' Cody Franson left Tuesday's game in the first period with an
upper-body injury and he is expected to miss two weeks of action. Nashville
recalled defenseman Alexander Sulzer from Milwaukee of the AHL on Wednesday.
02/04 10:45:35 ET