The Colorado Avalanche have made their fight for home-ice advantage in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs more difficult as they are on the verge of matching their worst slump of the season.
Conversely, the Nashville Predators are playing some of their better hockey despite the postseason being all but out of reach.
Colorado looks to avoid a fourth consecutive defeat while preventing host Nashville from winning a third straight Tuesday night.
The Avalanche (44-21-6) trail Chicago by three points for second place in the Central Division with 11 to play, though they do have one game in hand. They’ve gone 0-2-1 over their last three after winning seven of nine and fell 2-0 to Boston on Friday.
Colorado has a tough schedule down the stretch, with nine opponents either currently holding a playoff spot or still involved in a tight race in their respective conference.
”We hadn’t been shut out all year," forward Matt Duchene said. "Usually, it happens against great teams.”
The Avalanche, who lost a season-worst four straight from Dec. 21-29, scored at least three goals in their previous six games. Coach Patrick Roy was pleased with his club’s effort despite another loss.
"I thought we played an outstanding game," Roy said. "I guess we have nothing to show for it right now, but I thought it was very positive. Except for maybe six or seven minutes at the start of the third, I thought we played better than them."
Colorado has won two of three meetings with Nashville this season, including a 5-4 victory Jan. 18 that ended its seven-game road skid against the Predators.
The Avalanche have yet to face goaltender Pekka Rinne, though, and he may be in net for this contest after earning his first shutout of the season with 29 saves in Sunday’s 2-0 win over Chicago.
Rinne had allowed at least four goals in his last three starts, but he was at his best as the Predators (31-31-10) earned a split on their four-game road trip.
"Personally, I’ve struggled the last couple games on this road trip, and it’s been tough for me," said Rinne, who is 3-5-0 with a 2.86 goals-against average in nine starts after missing 51 games due to a hip infection. "It for sure feels good after (Sunday’s) win. The guys played extremely hard."
Rinne is 9-1-1 with a 1.82 GAA in his last 11 starts against the Avalanche and hasn’t allowed more than two goals in the last eight. He’s looking to help the Predators end a disappointing season on a positive note as they sit in last place in the division.
Nashville has lost five straight at home, not scoring more than one goal in any contest.
Another solid defensive effort led by captain Shea Weber obviously would be welcomed after he was on the ice for 34:14 on Sunday – the most he’s ever played in a regular-season game in his nine-year career. He played over 42 minutes in a double-overtime playoff win over Vancouver in 2011.
”Our defense, especially Weber, was an absolutely monster out there,” Trotz said. ”It was worth every penny watching him."
The Predators’ blue line may be a little thin, though, as highly touted rookie Seth Jones left Sunday’s contest in the first period after being hit into the boards. Nashville is calling it an upper-body injury, though his father reportedly said the departure was due to concussion-like symptoms.
Semyon Varlamov, 4-1-0 with a 3.01 GAA in his last five against the Predators, could be in net for the Avalanche.