Wednesday Night Hockey: Preds, Avs meet in playoff rematch

Joey Alfieri
NBC Sports

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Wednesday night’s matchup between the Nashville Predators and Colorado Avalanche at 10:00 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Preds and Avs will meet for the first time since they went head-to-head in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs last spring. Of course, Nashville won that series in six games, but Colorado didn’t go away quietly.

Peter Laviolette’s team comes into this game riding a three-game winning streak, as they’ve racked up victories over the Golden Knights, the Lightning and Bruins. Those are three pretty good teams. What’s even more impressive, is that the Preds only allowed two goals over the course of the winning streak. After missing five games with an undisclosed injury, Pekka Rinne won back-to-back games, including a 26-save shutout against the Boston Bruins.

Coming into the season, many wondered whether or not Rinne would be back next season because he was entering the final year of his contract. The Preds put that story to bed by signing their veteran Finnish goaltender to a two-year, $10 million extension.

“Both the organization and Pekka want him to play his entire career with the Predators, and this helps accomplish that objective, while also stabilizing our goaltending for at least the next two seasons beyond 2018-19,” said GM David Poile. “We feel the tandem of Pekka and Juuse Saros is among the best in the league.”

That tandem has been impressive. Rinne has a 5-1-0 record with a 1.63 goals-against-average and a .948 save percentage this season, while Saros owns a 6-2-0 record with a 2.50 goals-against-average and a .917 save percentage. Not too shabby. The defense might be the backbone of this team, but the two goaltenders aren’t far behind.

“My goal was to stay here, and I felt like the team wanted me to stay here. I think in that sense, sooner the better,” Rinne said. “I’m very happy about the whole situation.”

Their defense and goaltending will be challenged tonight, as they’ll face an Avs team that’s second in the league in goals per game (3.71).

The Avalanche have also received some steady goaltending from Semyon Varlamov, but this Avs team is being carried by their first line of Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen.

That trio combined for 243 points in 2017-18, and they’ve already combined for 63 points through 14 games. MacKinnon and Landeskog are both tied at 11 goals, but Rantanen leads the team in points with 24. Nobody in the NHL has picked up more points than Rantanen. Even though he’s played one less game than Connor McDavid, he’s still picked up two more points.

“You start getting in that 80-point-plus range and it puts you among the elite in the league, in my opinion,” Avs coach Jared Bednar told the Denver Post last month. “And then you look at the start he has this year and some of the things that stand out with his sturdiness on pucks and the way he’s using his size and strength. I think he’s just figuring out how he can be more productive and more dangerous by using his size because he’s a big strong guy.”

Rantanen has only been held off the scoresheet in two of 14 games this year.

Reminder: the early game on NBCSN features the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals. 

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

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