The Nashville Predators are streaking with five straight victories, and six in their last seven games, so their current confidence is more than justified.
But the Colorado Avalanche are feeling confident too. They also are carrying a five-game winning streak and have gone 13-2-1 over the last month.
Something will have to give when the teams meet Thursday night at Nashville. It is the second scheduled meeting between the teams, with Colorado having won 6-2 in Denver on Nov. 27.
The lineup will be much different for the Predators, who are one of the many NHL teams dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak. Six players and six staff members were put into the league’s protocols Wednesday, leaving them with a depleted roster.
Forwards Mikael Granlund, Ryan Johansen, Matt Luff, Michael McCarron and Philip Tomasino, as well as defenseman Ben Harpur, won’t suit up against the Avalanche. The team will also be without head coach John Hynes, assistant coaches Dan Lambert and Todd Richards and goaltending coach Ben Vanderklok.
Assistant coach Dan Hinote reportedly will serve as the acting head coach Thursday. He is the only bench coach not on the list. Hinote began his playing career with Colorado and was a member of the 2001 Stanley Cup championship team.
Nashville was scheduled to play Calgary on Tuesday, but that game was postponed due to COVID issues with the Flames. Calgary has 27 players and staff on the protocol list after 17 more were added Wednesday.
Tomasino scored the only goal in the Predators’ 1-0 win over the New York Rangers on Sunday night that completed a 4-0 road trip for Nashville.
“I really liked the mental focus of the guys. They rose to the task,” Hines said after the win.
The Avalanche are coming off a 4-2 in over the Rangers on Tuesday night on the strength of two goals by Valeri Nichushkin. He scored what proved to be the game winner in the third and then clinched it with a breakaway goal in the final minute.
Nichushkin, who was picked up after Dallas let him go three years ago, has found a home in Colorado.
“He’s such a team guy, an unselfish guy; you want those guys to have success,” coach Jared Bednar said after Tuesday’s win. He’s carved out a real important role on our team.”
Nichushkin has helped fill the scoring void with players rotating in and out of the lineup. The Avalanche are missing only Gabriel Landeskog from their top-six forward rotation, but they will be without defenseman Devon Toews for at least five more games.
Toews, who leads the team in ice time, was put into COVID-19 protocols Tuesday. Despite Toews’ positive test, Bednar said he doesn’t have an issue with how the players have navigated the pandemic.
“Our guys are living their lives, they’re being safe, following all the protocols,” Bednar said. “Tell them to be safe, avoid crowds. We’re basically playing every night. We’re playing and going home to family. You got to go get groceries, go get them. It is what it is.”
–Field Level Media