December 08, 2014

A franchise-record point streak has the Nashville Predators well-equipped to handle the rigors of a long late-season road trip.

They'll open a five-game trek looking to extend that impressive run in Saturday's key matchup with the Colorado Avalanche.

Though its season-high five-game win streak was halted, Nashville (32-21-12) earned a point in an 11th consecutive game with Thursday's 5-4 overtime loss to New Jersey. The Predators are 7-0-4 over the stretch and have moved six points clear of the Avalanche and Minnesota for the Western Conference's top wild-card spot.

Nashville's 12-3-4 mark since Jan. 21 trails only Anaheim among West teams, with much of that success coming in visiting venues. The Predators are 8-0-1 in their last nine road games, winning the last four.

They have come up empty in two prior 2015-16 meetings with Colorado (33-29-4), which got a crucial four-game homestand off to a desired start with Thursday's 3-2 victory over Florida. The Avalanche remained tied with resurgent Minnesota for the West's final playoff spot, though the Wild hold a game in hand.

Colorado stopped a two-game skid behind a strong performance from Calvin Pickard, who recorded 24 of his 38 saves in the third period filling in for a slumping Semyon Varlamov. The backup goaltender is 3-1-0 with a 1.95 goals-against average over his last five appearances.

''The thing that I like about him is his swagger,'' coach Patrick Roy said. ''He seems very confident right now in front of the net. He looks big and he's moving well. I love that intensity that he's bringing, the compete level that he's bringing on the ice.''

Conversely, Varlamov's psyche appears a bit shaken after surrendering three first-period goals in Tuesday's 6-3 defeat at Minnesota and yielding four each in losing his previous two starts.

Varlamov did have 34 saves in a 3-2 win in Nashville on Dec. 12, and 19 while backed by two power-play goals in a 5-3 home victory over the Predators on Jan. 8. The Avalanche are 3 of 11 and Nashville just 1 of 8 in man-advantage situations for the season series.

The Predators had killed 20 of 22 penalties over their nine games preceding Thursday's loss, in which the Devils scored on all three power-play opportunities.

''It's disappointing to lose that way," said center Mike Fisher, who skated in his 1,000th NHL game. "It wasn't our best, but we've just got to regroup and have a good game (Saturday) and forget about this one and just keep rolling here, keep our confidence high and forget about it.''

Nashville has continued to get big production from its line of Mike Ribeiro, Filip Forsberg and Craig Smith, each of whom had a goal. Smith has seven points over a three-game goal streak and Forsberg has a league-leading 13 goals over a 13-game stretch, with seven coming in his past five.

"That line was excellent, once again," coach Peter Laviolette said. "They are working extremely hard out there and because of that they are generating chances."

Colorado's offense has received an immediate contribution from trade-deadline pickup Mikkel Boedker. The forward contributed a goal to Thursday's win after registering an assist in his first game since being acquired from Arizona on Monday.

You May Like