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Preds go for home-and-home sweep of Avs

Something about playing the Colorado Avalanche seems to bring out the best in the Nashville Predators and goaltender Pekka Rinne.

The Preds look to win their seventh straight game over the Avs this evening in the finale of a home-and-home series that began two nights ago in Colorado.

Nashville carried a five-game series win streak into that meeting after taking all four encounters a season ago and kept up its dominance with a 4-1 win. Nick Spaling, Ryan Ellis and Martin Erat all scored in the first period and Patric Hornqvist netted a third-period goal.

Erat and Ellis also logged assists and Rinne made 32 saves for the Predators, who last lost to the Avalanche on Jan. 22, 2010 and not at home since Jan. 6, 2009. Nashville has won four straight and 10 of the past 13 between the clubs in Tennessee.

"Whenever you play the Western teams, you always try and bring your best game and we have been doing a pretty good job against Colorado," said Rinne, who moved to 8-3-0 in 11 career games versus the Avalanche.

"They have a good young team and every year they get better. We seem to matchup pretty well against them, but I'm not saying it's easy. Like tonight, they had a really strong second period and seemed to have a strong power play."

Nashville improved to 5-1-0 in its last six games overall and sits five points back of St. Louis and Chicago for first place in the Central Division. Ellis, who was playing in just his sixth NHL game, said the Predators aren't doing anything special to find success.

"The team has been keeping it simple. The second period was a bit of a struggle but Pekka held us in there. He played well all night. Just keep it simple and get pucks on the net. We are a hard working team and that is the way we play every night," Ellis said.

Colorado outshot Nashville 27-13 after the first period and got a power-play goal from Ryan O'Reilly in the second period, but couldn't overcome its slow start. Semyon Varlamov struggled early and made 22 saves.

"They started the game on time and we didn't play a good first period. They took it to us right off the bat and we just got hemmed in. It took us a while to get out but once we got in the game, after that it was pretty much an even game," O'Reilly said after logging his team-leading 30th point.

The Avalanche lost back-to-back games for the first time since a three-game slide from Dec. 6-9 and that comes on the heels of winning four straight and nine of 10. Colorado had its recent string of victories halted on Saturday with a 4-0 loss in St. Louis.

That defeat also snapped Colorado's four-game road win streak and the club opens a three-game trek tonight having upped its road record to 10-9-1 on the season.

Though defenseman Ryan Wilson returned to the lineup after missing 15 games, the first 13 due to a concussion, the Avs were without blueliners Erik Johnson (hand) and Shane O'Brien (knee). Both were hurt versus the Blues and Johnson is day-to-day while O'Brien isn't expected to play tonight.