In the final (hallelujah) preseason game of 2010-11, the Nashville Predators head to our nation's capital for the second of two tilts with the Washington Capitals. They lost the first, but the Caps iced a much more veteran squad with the likes of Mike Green and Nicklas Backstrom.
NOTE: Today's game is a special start time of 11:30 AM CST.
There are six days left until the regular season opens against Anaheim. Expect to see nearly full-strength rosters for both sides, and follow after the jump for more.
There are only a couple of players left for the Predators to cut, and the backup goalie situation has been rectified for now with Anders Lindback beating out Mark Dekanich. The contest for the 13th forward spot appears to remain open, though, with Sergei Kostitsyn, Cal O'Reilly, and Jonas Andersson still doing battle.
The penalty kill still needs some work, but the early power play returns have been very encouraging. The Predators converted twice against Atlanta and seem to have implemented a strategy other than "pass it to Shea and get outta the way" (effective as that may be). The Capitals struggle mightily on the PK, so lets hope that we see a similar success rate this morning.
With the backup race decided, Pekka Rinne will play the full 60 in a bit of a 'dress rehearsal' for the regular season.
We don't have the rosters yet, but only 26 players remain on the team. Here's an educated guess as to who'll start tonight:
As Barry Trotz told Bryan Mullen, he's "very secure with Belak and Smithson and Tootoo," and has "a long history with them in terms of what they bring."; so I wouldn't be surprised if players such as those sat tonight out in favor of Jonas Andersson, Cal O'Reilly, and Sergei Kostitsyn.
The last information we heard on Kevin Klein and Jamie Lundmark's injuries was that they were both day-to-day. Lundmark has a strained groin, but Klein returned from what ailed him. Sergei Kostitsyn took a puck off the foot in practice yesterday.
The reigning President's Trophy winner, the Caps should be considered one of the odds-on favorite to win the Stanley Cup. They have more firepower up front than Chicago, Vancouver, or Pittsburgh with Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, and Nicklas Backstrom making up the core. On defense, Norris Trophy finalist Mike Green and last year's +/- leader Jeff Schultz compose the top pair; while blue-chip prospects John Carlson and Karl Alzner are set to spend their first full seasons in the NHL.
As successful as last year was, this one looks to be more promising for Washington - if they can overcome a couple of hurdles. One; they're relying on two young goaltenders to carry them. It didn't turn out too bad for Chicago and Antti Niemi, but Semyon Varlamov has had injury problems in the past. Secondly; the Caps, much like the Predators, have not been able to overcome the playoff barrier. Washington has not made it to the Eastern Conference Finals in the Bruce Boudreau era, and with a roster such as theirs you'd imagine 2010-11 is a make-or-break year.
Until we know for sure, it could be Varlamov or young Czech Michal Neuvirth.
It is a matchup of contrasts - Washington's offense against Nashville's defense and goaltending. I'm confident that the Predators and Pekka Rinne can contain the Caps' attack, but its simply not feasible for the forwards to run and gun with Ovechkin and Co. If Nashville can slow the game down; they'll have a chance - but that's never an easy task in the Verizon Center. Capitals 2, Predators 1 (OT).