Capitals vs Predators preview: Batter the blue, boys!

The Nashville Predators welcome in another high-profile Eastern Conference team tonight (7:00 p.m. Central on FS-TN) in the Washington Capitals, one of the legitimate threats to capture the Prince of Wales Trophy this season. It's also a chance for Preds fans to welcome back one of last summer's free agent departures, Joel Ward, as he returns with a Caps team that is soaring in the standings, and a bank account that's soaring even higher.

Follow after the jump as we break it all down...

There are still tickets, many in the upper bowl, left for this game - so take the OTF Discount & save $$$!

Tale of the Tape

Washington (10-4-1) at Nashville (8-5-3)
WSH Offense vs. NSH Defense NSH Offense vs. WSH Defense
5-on-5
GF/60 SF/60 Shoot % GA/60 SA/60 Save %
 WSH Offense 3.3 (3rd) 30.1 (14th) 11.0 (2nd) 2.5 (16th) 29.1 (14th) 913 (18th)  WSH Defense 
 NSH Defense   2.5 (16th)   31.8 (25th)   923 (12th)   2.4 (14th)   25.8 (26th)  9.2 (7th)  NSH Offense
GA/60 SA/60 Save % GF/60 SF/60 Shoot %
Special Teams
WSH PP vs. NSH PK NSH PP vs. WSH PK
GF/60 SF/60 Shoot % GA/60 SA/60 Save %
 WSH 5-on-4 6.8 (9th) 46.2 (20th) 14.8 (7th) 5.5 (16th) 52.9 (19th) 896 (12th)  WSH 4-on-5
 NSH 4-on-5 3.5 (5th) 55.7 (24th) 938 (4th) 5.1 (20th) 42.4 (25th)  11.9 (16th)   NSH 5-on-4
GA/60 SA/60 Save % GF/60 SF/60 Shoot %

Slowly but surely, the Preds are working their way up from those god-awful SF & SA numbers in 5-on-5 play, but it will take many more weeks of solid play before they climb back into the middle of the NHL's pack. Based on that recent trend, this isn't quite the mismatch you might think at first glance.

Washington Capitals

After winning 7 straight to start the season, the Caps have slowed the pace of late, and come into tonight's game with a 3-4-1 record over their last eight. For Washington, however, the regular season is almost prelude; with plenty all the focus these days is on playoff success, and whether or not Bruce Boudreau's re-engineering of the team to play more responsible defensively will ultimately bear fruit.

They'll be a bit shorthanded tonight, however, as star defenseman Mike Green is out of the lineup with a lower body injury, while Roman Hamrlik and John Erskine are dinged up, but expected to play. Like the Preds, Washington comes into this game without any additional defensemen available.

Over at Japers' Rink, meanwhile, they're still trying to figure out the Alexander Semin conundrum:

It's no secret that Alexander Semin has had a rough go of it over the first month of the season, scoring just three goals and adding five helpers in 15 games, the last couple of which have found him in and out of the Doggy Dacha. No one has an answer for why things have gone sideways, though everyone from the coach to the player to the pundits to the fans no doubt has a theory.    

While Semin is always an interesting story, and of course the welcome home for former Predators Joel Ward and Tomas Vokoun will draw attention (as expected, Vokoun will get the start tonight), my eye will be on Alex Ovechkin tonight, who is apparently off to a disappointing start. In 5 previous games against Nashville, however, Ovi has 4 goals and 4 assists.


Alex Ovechkin

#8 / Left Wing / Washington Capitals

6-2

225

Sep 17, 1985



GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG
SOG PCT
2011 - Alex Ovechkin 15 7 7 14 -1 10 2 0 0 50 14.0

What a slacker, eh?

Nashville Predators

No Legwand or Laakso tonight for the Preds, so we'll likely see the same lineup we did Saturday night against Montreal, particularly since Washington's leader in penalty minutes is Alex Semin, and I don't think Nashville will need Brian McGratten to tangle with him.

As a team, the Preds have gamely fought through a number of injuries to win as many games as they've lost (8), and as long as enough of those losses occur in overtime or the shootout, that should keep them in the middle of the Western Conference until healthier days arrive (if they ever do).

Pekka Rinne, as always, carries the heaviest burden when it comes to keeping the Predators in the hunt:


Pekka Rinne

#35 / Goalie / Nashville Predators

6-5

209

Nov 03, 1982



GP MIN W L OTL GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2011 - Pekka Rinne 15 870 8 4 3 33 2.28 464 431 .929 3

Heading into tonight's game, then, it would appear the key will be for the Nashville forwards to make sure they get pucks in deep and take advantage of a shorthanded and banged-up Washington defense corps. The best way to deny big guns like Ovechkin & Semin their offensive opportunities is to keep them hemmed in their own zone as much as possible...

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