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Old 12-15-2007, 04:38 PM   #127
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Default Predators-Avalanche Dec 15, 2007, 9:00 PM EST

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The Colorado Avalanche have been of the better home teams in the NHL over the past few seasons. That hasn't been the case when they've hosted the Nashville Predators.

Colorado looks to sweep a home-and-home series from Nashville when the teams meet at the Pepsi Center on Saturday night.

Since 2002-03, the Avs have gone 99-52-14 with 14 ties at home, including a 12-3-0 mark this season. But against Nashville during that span, they've won just twice in eight meetings in Denver.

The Predators won 4-2 on April 7 in their most recent trip to the Pepsi Center.

Colorado (17-13-1), though, did win 2-1 in Nashville on Thursday night in the opener of this home-and-home set. The game was scoreless heading into the third period before Ryan Smyth scored his 10th goal of the season at the 4:58 mark, and Ian Laperriere gave the Avs some breathing room when he scored with 3:15 remaining.

Smyth's goal ended a five-period scoreless streak for the Avs against the Predators (14-13-2) and goalie Chris Mason this season.

The win was the Avs' third in four games, while Nashville lost for the fourth time in five contests.

"I thought it was a very complete game," Colorado coach Joel Quenneville said. "It was a heck of a battle. ... I know there were a lot of scoring chances, but every time the puck was challenged. Every scrum was intense. The first goal was a big one."

Avs goalie Peter Budaj was on the verge of recording his first shutout of the season, but Alexander Radulov scored with 21 seconds left. The Predators almost tied the game in the closing seconds, but J.P Dumont missed Jason Arnott with a pass as he stood in front of the net.

"It would have been nice to get a shutout, but the most important thing is that Nashville did not score a second goal," Budaj said. "I think they had a big chance right there at the end."

The Predators are struggling on offense, having scored just five times during their last four defeats.

"The puck just isn't bouncing our way right now," left wing Vernon Fiddler said. "We have to keep moving forward and keep doing the things we're doing and the puck will start finding the back of the net."

Nashville thought it found the back of the net in the second period Thursday, but Radek Bonk's goal between Budaj's pads was waved off because the play had been whistled dead. A video review confirmed the call.

"I'm going to have to get clarification on that," Predators coach Barry Trotz said. "They said they were in the process of blowing the whistle, and I was told there was a push of the goalie. There are a number of different scenarios, but if you really look at it, the puck goes in there very quickly.

"Radek really had nothing to do with the goal other than putting the puck on the net. But they said they blew the whistle. I'm still not understanding the rule."

Veteran center Scott Nichol will return to the Predators lineup Saturday after serving a five-game suspension for delivering a blow to the head of Montreal's Patrice Brisebois on Dec. 1.

Side notes:

Joe Sakic is on the injured list because of a groin injury and has missed the past seven games. Tyler Arnason, who hasn't scored in the past 15 games he has played, has been bothered by a wrist injury and was held out of a 2-1 win Thursday night at Nashville. With Sakic and Arnason out, Jaroslav Hlinka is getting an opportunity to play his natural position.

Quenneville loved the option of moving Hlinka back to center.

"He had a real good game," Quenneville said. "He made two real nice plays on the goals and I liked his presence around the rink and you noticed his speed and his patience with the puck.

"We have a couple center men out and we were going to try some things. He's played a couple games and shifts at center during games and it was nice to see him do a good job."

Injuries: Nashville - LW Steve Sullivan (back) is on injured reserve. Colorado - C Joe Sakic (groin) and D Kurt Sauer (neck) are on injured reserve; C Tyler Arnason (wrist) is out.

Sidelight: Avalanche defenSeimian have accounted for 29 points in the past 12 games but have gone without a point in the past two games.

Notes: Colorado beat the Predators 2-1 on Thursday night in Nashville. . . . Smyth has 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in the past seven games. . . . The line of Stastny, Smyth and Hejduk has combined for 31 points in the past seven games. . . . The Avalanche is 12-3-0 at home this season. . . . Brunette has played in 402 consecutive games, the second-longest active streak in the NHL. . . . Colorado has allowed only six power- play goals in the past 13 games. . . . The Avalanche is 12-1 when scoring the first goal of the game. . . . In the past five games, the Nashville power play has gone 1-for-27.

Last edited by Bronx33; 12-15-2007 at 04:46 PM..
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