The Nashville Predators have had a tumultuous year, with the firing of their coach mid-year and a struggle to stay in the postseason picture.
Lately, things have started to brighten for the 2017 Western Conference champions.
Six wins in their last eight games have gotten them into the secondwild card with 19 games remaining. The Predators will try to continue their late-season surge when they host Central Division rival Colorado on Saturday night.
The Avalanche, firmly in the playoffs barring a collapse in the last weeks of the season, played in Carolina on Friday night, winning 3-2 for their seventh straight victory on the road, tying a franchise record. Colorado has won five in a row overall.
Colorado has done well in back-to-backs, most recently sweeping Anaheim and Los Angeles last weekend in Southern California. Avalanche goaltender Pavel Francouz allowed just one goal in the two wins and has continued that hot play leading up to Saturday.
He beat Buffalo 3-2 on Wednesday after being named the NHL's No. 1 star for his play last week. He made 45 saves in net Friday, so it's possible Michael Hutchinson, acquired from Toronto at the trade deadline, will play Saturday night.
"That's why we play this position, to make a save," Francouz said after the win over Carolina. "It's always fun to be in the game all the time,"
Nashville has surged, and nothing was more satisfying than its overtime win over Calgary on Thursday night. The Predators trailed late but got a goal from Mikael Granlund with 0.1 left in regulation to tie it, and then the winger scored in overtime.
It's the type of victory that can spur on a team, coach John Hynes said after the game.
"I think it can if you're in a situation like this again where we had to come from behind to be able to tie the game in the third period, later in the third period and then have to find a way to be able to tie it again," he told reporters. "Twice we had to come from behind, so I think when you get in those situations again, it can certainly have a positive effect, and those reinforce a lot of the things we're talking about."
Nashville may have goaltender Pekka Rinne back in the crease if he is recovered from an illness that has kept him from playing the last three games.
Rinne, who was in net for the only game against Colorado this season -- a 9-4 Avalanche win on Nov. 7 -- is 1-2-1 with a 2.64 goals-against average in February.
Colorado has been winning despite facing myriad injuries.
The Avalanche are without forwards Mikko Rantanen, Nazem Kadri and Matt Calvert for an extended period of time. The team's second-leading scorer, Andre Burakovsky, who missed two games with what was listed as an upper-body injury/illness, was back in the lineup on Friday night.
Colorado has kept winning because of contributions from call-ups.
Most recently, the play of 20-year-old rookie Martin Kaut, who scored his first NHL goal against Buffalo on Wednesday, has given the team a lift. Kaut has played in five games since being recalled from the AHL on Feb. 19 and has a goal and an assist.
Getting his first NHL goal was special to the young Czech.
"It's a dream. I am so happy for this moment," he said after the win over the Sabres. "It was my dream to score my first NHL goal and I got it, so I am so happy."
--Field Level Media