Sports

Preds continue chase for Central title in Colorado

(SportsNetwork.com) - The Nashville Predators will try to remain in the hunt for a Central Division title and avoid a fourth loss in a row on Tuesday night as they visit the Colorado Avalanche.

Nashville has gone 0-1-2 over its past three games, putting it a point behind the St. Louis Blues for the top spot in the division. Both clubs have three games left in the regular season and the Blues host the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday night.

The Predators also are just two points ahead of the third-place Chicago Blackhawks, who host the Minnesota Wild tonight.

Nashville picked up a point for a second straight game with Saturday's 4-3 overtime loss to Dallas. The Stars got the game-winner on Cody Eakin's penalty shot with 55.7 seconds left, a scoring chance that was awarded when the Preds' Mattias Ekholm knocked his stick out of his hand.

The Predators got goals from James Neal, Filip Forsberg and Ryan Ellis, while Pekka Rinne made 30 saves. Mike Ribeiro picked up his 500th career assist when he helped set up Neal's game-tying goal with 1:55 to go in regulation.

"Tough way to lose," said Ellis. "But we showed that we have the character to come back."

Though the Predators lost the game, they did see a trio of players return from injury. Neal was back following a nine-game absence caused by an upper-body injury, while defenseman and captain Shea Weber returned after sitting out three in a row due to a lower-body issue. Matt Cullen also played for the first time in six games because of a lower-body issue.

Forwards Paul Gaustad (head) and Mike Santorelli (illness) did miss Saturday's loss, but both returned to practice on Monday.

Nashville is 3-1-0 versus the Avalanche this season, splitting two trips to Colorado, and figure to start Rinne tonight. He is 13-4-2 in 21 games (19 meetings) with the Avs, posting a 2.02 goals against average and .922 save percentage.

The Avalanche come in having lost three of four and they were eliminated from playoff contention on Saturday following Winnipeg's win over Vancouver. Colorado then went out and lost a 3-1 decision to the Los Angeles Kings.

Ryan O'Reilly scored the only goal of the game for the Avalanche and Semyon Varlamov allowed all three goals on 26 shots.

"Well obviously we're all disappointed," said Colorado head coach Patrick Roy. "I'm happy with the overall effort from our team, we were very resilient. But it's not a good feeling to know our season is ending soon."

The Avalanche finish the season with a three-game homestand against the Predators, Jets and Blackhawks. Varlamov will start the opener of the residency and is 7-4-1 with a 3.04 GAA and .900 save percentage in 12 meetings with Nashville.