A five-game homestand was supposed to be an elixir for the Colorado Avalanche but they stumbled against the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night.
Colorado has split the first two games of its season-long stretch at home and will try to get back to winning ways when it hosts the Nashville Predators on Saturday night in Denver.
Colorado has gotten a little healthier over the last few games. Forwards Artturi Lehkonen and Valeri Nichushkin returned in time for the start of the homestand and Evan Rodrigues was back in the lineup Thursday after missing nine games with a lower-body injury.
He scored the second goal for the Avalanche when they were trying to rally late in the third before losing 4-2.
“I felt better as the game went on. A little rusty in the first, but I think as the game went on I got my legs underneath me,” Rodrigues said. “I started to play a little bit smarter and thought I ended the game pretty well.”
The injuries have taken a toll, especially on the power play, which had been a big asset early in the season. Colorado has failed to score on its last 17 man-advantage opportunities, which only confirms how the absence of Nathan MacKinnon (upper-body injury) has impacted the team.
The Avalanche could get defenseman Kurtis MacDermid back in time for Saturday’s game against Nashville. MacDermid (lower-body injury) was skating in a full-contact jersey at practice on Friday; he has not played since Nov. 12 against Carolina.
Coach Jared Bednar did not say if goaltender Pavel Francouz (illness) would be available against the Predators. Jonas Johansson was called up from the AHL on Thursday to serve as Alexandar Georgiev’s backup.
Nashville will likely have Juuse Saros in net against the Avalanche after his 39-save performance in an overtime loss at Winnipeg on Thursday night. Saros and Kevin Lankinen have given the Predators a solid goaltending pair.
“We have two really good goalies — they’re going to give us a chance to win every single night,” Mikael Granlund said after the win over the Jets.
“It’s disappointing we didn’t get the two points for Juice with the way he played. At the same time, we got something out of this game, and we’ve got to live with that.”
Saros was playing well last season before an injury knocked him out of the first-round playoff series against Colorado. Without him the Avalanche swept Nashville, and they won the first meeting between the teams this season on Nov. 10.
Colorado went on the road to play the Predators on Nov. 25 but flooding in Bridgestone Arena postponed the game until April 14.
Nashville has dropped its last five games — two of those in overtime — following a three-game winning streak, which included a pair of OT wins. The Predators are trying to stay in the playoff hunt in the competitive Central Division, as are the Avalanche. Colorado is in fourth place in the division, and losing to a Buffalo team at home hurts, especially after outshooting the Sabres 41-21.
“We had more good looks than we’ve had probably last two games combined,” Bednar said. “We need the two points.”
–Field Level Media