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Predators Game Day Preview: Washington vs. Nashville

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03-10_medium

Washington Capitals blogs: Japer's Rink, too many others to mention

The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming! Well, there's a pretty good Swede and some other guys, too. Despite some lackluster play of late, the Caps are one of the most dynamic teams in the league, and the #3 team in the Eastern Conference. In their last meeting, on October 18 in Washington, the Preds lost 4-3 in a shootout.

Questions to be answered: (1) How will Scott Nichol fare in his return to action after almost 3 months on injured reserve? (2) Can the workmanlike, team-based Nashville approach top the star-studded Washington attack? (3) Can presumed starter Pekka Rinne bounce back from giving up 4 goals to the Flyers on Saturday?

Caps coming in: That 40-21-6 record is impressive, but Washington just concluded an 0-3-1 homestand, so they'll be looking to right the ship. They enjoy a 9-point lead in the Southeast Division over Carolina, and hold a game in hand, so perhaps this is a case of a team struggling to find motivation.

Predators coming in:Their loss Saturday in Philadelphia ended a 6-game winning streak, which has lifted Nashville into the thick of the Western Conference playoff chase.

Caps to watch: Besides fawning over Alex Ovechkin, there are plenty of other players (Alex Semin, Nicklas Backstrom) to keep an eye out for. On defense, Mike Green has blown past the competition with 23 goals and 35 assists.

Preds to watch:Martin Erat has scored in each of the two games since his return from an injured groin, and David Legwand's 5 goals and 2 assists in his last 6 games has him on the precipice of only his 2nd 20-goal season.

Here's a look at the two teams in the main statistical categories, along with overall NHL rank:

Washington Nashville
 Record 40-21-6 5th 33-29-4 18th
 Pts % .642 5th .530 19th
 Goals For/Game 3.22 6th 2.52 26th
 Goals Against/Game 2.91 16th 2.73 10th
 5-on-5 GF/GA 1.18 7th 0.95 16th
 PP% 24.4 2nd 14.1 28th
 PK% 79.6 22nd 84.3 4th
 Shots/Game 32.9 4th 29.2 15th
 Shots Against/Game 29.5 13th 29.2 11th
 FO % 51.4 6th 53.0 3rd

If the Preds are going to win tonight, it will be due to solid defense shutting down a potent bunch of Capitals. The Washington power play vs. Nashville penalty killing is the featured matchup here, as both groups are among the league leaders.

One other statistical tidbit to toss in here. Who's likely to load up the penalty box tonight?

 Washington Penalties Drawn Nashville Penalties Drawn
 Player Draws Fouls Pen +/-  Player Draws Fouls Pen +/-
 Alex Ovechkin 33 32 +1  Jordin Tootoo 45 40 +5
 Brooks Laich 32 13 +19  Martin Erat 22 24 -2
 Alex Semin 25 26 -1  Ryan Jones 22 9 +13
 Donald Brashear 25 32 -7  Dan Hamhuis 21 23 -2
 Mike Green 20 28 -8  Joel Ward 20 10 +10
 Matt Bradley 18 13 +5  Vern Fiddler 20 7 +13
Penalties Taken Penalties Taken
 Alex Ovechkin 33 32 +1  Jordin Tootoo 45 40 +5
 Donald Brashear 25 32 -7  Ryan Suter 16 33 -17
 Mike Green 20 28 -8  Shea Weber 14 32 -18
 Milan Jurcina 6 27 -21  Martin Erat 22 24 -2
 Alex Semin 25 26 -1  Greg de Vries 11 24 -13
 Shaone Morrisonn 17 25 -8  Dan Hamhuis 21 23 -2