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Battling injuries, Avs revisit playoff matchup with Predators

Oct 29, 2022; Elmont, New York, USA; Colorado Avalanche center Evan Rodrigues (9) reacts during the third period against the New York Islanders at UBS Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Winning a title is hard, but the Colorado Avalanche are starting to learn that repeating is even tougher.

A beat-up Colorado team returns home on Thursday night to face the Nashville Predators after sweeping Columbus in the two-game Global Series at Finland last weekend.

The organization suffered a loss with the passing of longtime broadcaster and U.S. Hockey Hall of Famer Peter McNab, who died Sunday after battling cancer. McNab has been part of the Avalanche broadcast team since the franchise moved to Denver from Quebec in 1995.

The team will honor him before Thursday’s game.

Colorado is home for three games — its longest home stretch so far this season — but will be short a couple of big pieces.

The team announced that top-six forward Valeri Nichushkin will undergo ankle surgery and miss approximately a month, while defensemen Bowen Byram and Sam Girard are also out, with Byram’s status said to be “week-to-week” due to a lower-body injury.

That, coupled with the fact that captain Gabriel Landeskog has yet to play and likely won’t return until January, means the Avalanche’s depth will be tested.

“Injuries are going to come at certain times,” coach Jared Bednar said. “You’re hoping they don’t pile up all at the same time like they kind of are for us right now.”

Bednar had time to tinker with new combinations before Thursday’s game. Evan Rodrigues, who has come on after a slow start, centered the second line in practice Tuesday with Alex Newhook and Martin Kaut.

Kaut had the go-ahead goal in Saturday’s win against the Blue Jackets.

The loss of two top-six defensemen gives Kurtis MacDermid a chance to get into the rotation.

Nashville is ending a five-game road trip Thursday and has a chance to finish with a winning record on the trip. The Predators won two in a row before falling at the surging Seattle Kraken on Tuesday.

Thursday’s game will be the first time the teams have met since the first round of the playoffs last May. Colorado swept Nashville in that series with goaltender Juuse Saros sidelined with a lower-body injury.

Saros has started 10 games this season and is 3-6 with a 3.46 goals-against average. He left Tuesday’s game after allowing four goals on six shots while his backup Kevin Lankinen stopped all 13 shots he faced.

“He came in and played well. We made some pushes in the game but he made some big plays for us,” coach John Hynes said of Lankinen. “I thought he came in and played well and played solid and kept it at four when we were trying to claw our way back into the game. So, he did his job.”

Filip Forsberg has been doing his job as well on the trip, with six points in the first four games. He had the Predators’ lone goal Tuesday, and moved up to third on the franchise scoring list during the road trip. He leads the team in scoring with 13 points (five goals, eight assists) and has had three multi-point games in the last six.

–Field Level Media