Predators carry newfound scoring to struggling Colorado

Field Level Media

The Nashville Predators struggled to score against the New York Rangers last weekend, so coach Peter Laviolette shook up his lines.

The result was a six-goal outburst in Detroit on Monday to kick off a four-game road trip, and now Nashville brings that energy to Denver on Thursday night.

It doesn't bode well for the struggling Colorado Avalanche, whose offense has gone cold after a great start to the season. Colorado began the season 7-0-1 but has gone 1-5-1 since, and now it has to try to stop the Predators after a lackluster performance in Dallas on Tuesday night.

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"A stretch like this (stinks) either way, so I don't care what our record was to start the year," Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson said after the loss to the Stars. "It's no fun to go through. We know what we're capable of. We know we're a whole lot better."

Part of the offensive struggles can be traced back to injuries. Colorado lost forward Mikko Rantanen to a lower-body injury toward the end of a six-game road trip two weeks ago and has only a win in Vegas since.

Things got even worse when captain Gabriel Landeskog went down with a serious lower-body injury last week, and he will miss significant time, coach Jared Bednar said. That leaves the Avalanche without two first-line forwards, and the results are obvious: seven goals scored in the past five games, all losses, and just two goals in the past three games.

Forward Jayson Megna was recalled from the AHL affiliate Colorado Eagles to take Landeskog's place but was reassigned to the Eagles on Wednesday.

Avalanche goaltender Philipp Grubauer will sit out the games due to a lower-body injury, and Pavel Francouz will get the start in his place.

Not that Nashville is feeling sorry for Colorado. The Predators ended a two-game skid with the 6-1 win at Detroit, thanks in part to changing up lines. Laviolette reunited Viktor Arvidsson, Ryan Johansen and Filip Forsberg, a trio that has had success in the past but one he split up before the season.

Forsberg had a goal in the win over Detroit, but it was Matt Duchene, who started the year on the same line as Forsberg, who was the offensive star with two goals. Now he comes in to face his former team with 13 points (four goals, nine assists) in 14 games.

Duchene -- who was traded from Colorado to Ottawa two years ago in a three-team, seven-player deal that included Nashville -- signed with the Predators in the offseason after helping Columbus reach the second round of the playoffs last spring. He was Colorado's first-round pick (third overall) in 2009 but became unhappy with the team and wanted a trade.

One of the assets the Avalanche got in the deal was defenseman Samuel Girard. He has established himself on the top pairing, but he also committed a critical turnover after the opening faceoff Tuesday that led to a Stars goal just 19 seconds into the game.

"It's unacceptable," Girard said after the game.

Colorado has a chance to bounce back against Nashville, which wants to build on the momentum of Monday's five-goal second period against the Red Wings. The Predators visit San Jose on Saturday and Vancouver on Tuesday.

"This trip is 11 or 12 days, and when you are on the road for that long, you want to be successful," Laviolette said.

--Field Level Media

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