(WC2) Predators at (1C) avalanche
Western Conference First Round Game 1
9:30 p.m. ET; ESPN, SN360 (JIP), SNE, TVAS, ALT, BSSO
Roman Josi the Nashville Predators and Kal Makar of the Colorado Avalanche – each a top contender for the Norris Trophy – will face off in Game 1 of the first round of the Western Conference at the Ball Arena on Tuesday.
Josi, who was named the NHL’s top defenseman by the Professional Hockey Writers Association in 2019-20, led NHL defensemen in assists (73) and points (96) that season. He finished second in goals (23).
“Personally, I watch it a lot throughout the year,” Makar said. “He’s popping up in so many different areas of the ice where you wouldn’t expect him, and at the same time he’s engaging on both sides. He is an outstanding player and definitely the driving force behind their team.”
Makar, last season’s Norris runner-up, led NHL defensemen this season with 28 goals. He was second in points (86) and fifth in assists (58).
“I love playing against him,” said Josi. “I love watching him play. He’s so dynamic. He’s such a great player.”
Game 1-winning teams are 499-228 (68.8 percent) winning a best-of-7 NHL playoff series, including 6-2 in the first round last season.
Here are 3 keys for Game 1:
1st rally around Rittich
Predators coach John Hynes said goalie David Rittich starts game 1, with Juuse Saros is out for the first two games with a lower body injury.
Rittich went 6-3-4 with 3.57 goals against averages and 0.886 percent defense in the regular season, including 1-1-0 with a 4.80 GAA and 0.877 percent defense against the Avalanche. He won 5-4 in a shootout at the Ball Arena on Thursday.
He has 17 minutes of experience in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and provided the Calgary Flames with three goals on nine shots in a 7-3 loss to the Dallas Stars in the first round in 2020.
“We trust him and believe in him,” Hynes said. “We think he can come in here and help us win a hockey game and we’ll go from there.”
2. Sync again
Avalanche trainer Jared Bednar said in the middle Nazem Kadri will be a game-time decision but Kadri was skating on Tuesday morning after missing two training sessions with an illness. Colorado seems perfectly healthy with Forward Gabriel Landeskog playing for the first time since knee surgery on March 14.
The Avalanche must figure out line combinations, rekindle chemistry, and rediscover their “A” game after going down the 1-5-1 route.
“We may have looked ahead a little too much [to the playoffs]but we’re all very confident in our games,” said the Avalanche goalkeeper Darcy Kumper called. “We were looking forward to that.”
Nashville went down the stretch 2-3-2.
3. Avoid “softer” penalties
The Predators led the NHL in regular-season penalty shootouts (1,035) and spent more time underhanded (455-43) than anyone but the Carolina Hurricanes (479-10). In four games against the Avalanche, they took 21 penalties and spent 24-11 shorthanded. Colorado went 5-on-17 (29.4 percent) on the power play.
Hynes said the key will be staying away from “softer” penalties, like stick penalties and penalties 200 feet from the net.
“It’s the trips,” Hynes said. “It’s the holds. It’s the hooks, the slashes, the things where you can stick to the puck instead of going on the player’s hands. I think those are the things that are going to be essential.”
Predator’s projected lineup
Philip Forsberg — Michael Granlund — Matt Duchene
Luke Kunin — Ryan Johansen — Philip Tomasino
Yakov Trenin — Colton Sissons — Tanner Jeannot
Nick Cousins — Michael McCarron — Eeli Tolvanen
Roman Josi — Dante Fabbro
Matthew Ekholm — Alexandre Carrier
Markus Borowiecki — Matt Benning
scratched: Ben Harpur, Jeremy Davis, Matthew Olivier, Jeremy Lauzon, Philip Myers, Matt Luff
Hurt: Juuse Saros (lower body)
Estimated formation of Avalanche
Gabriel Landeskog– Nathan MacKinnon — Valery Nikhushkin
Andre Burakowski –Nazem Kadri– Mikko Rantanen
Arturi Lehkonen — JT Compher — Nicolas Aube Kubel
Andrew Cogliano — Nico Storm — Darren Helm
Cale Makar– Devon Toews
Samuel Girard — Josh Manson
Eric Johnson — Bowen Byram
scratched: JackJohnson, Alex Newhook, Logan O’Connor, Ryan Murray, Kurtis MacDermid
Rittich will make his first playoff start. … Saros have missed the last two games of the regular season. … Landeskog have missed the last 23 games of the regular season.