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Predators @ Capitals Preview: One Grand Capital

Washington Capitals winger Mike Knuble plays in his 1,000th NHL game tonight.
Washington Capitals winger Mike Knuble plays in his 1,000th NHL game tonight.

The Nashville Predators will put their 5-game winning streak on the line tonight in Washington, against a Capitals team which is still trying to find its way under new head coach Dale Hunter. Once a high-flying offensive powerhouse, the Caps converted into a defense-first team in reaction to playoff disappointment against Montreal in 2010. Is this a path which will ultimately lead to the top of the Stanley Cup mountain, or has Washington gone astray?

Game time is 6:00 p.m. Central, and I'm joining Willy Daunic in the 102.5 The Game studios for the pre- and post-game coverage, so tune in starting at 5:00 as we set up the battle!

And in the meantime, follow after the jump for a breakdown of tonight's matchup...

Tale Of The Tape

Nashville (17-11-4) at Washington (16-14-1)
NSH Offense vs. WSH Defense WSH Offense vs. NSH Defense
GF/60 SF/60 Shoot % GA/60 SA/60 Save %
NSH Offense 2.1 (25th) 25.6 (29th) 8.4 (15th) 2.2 (7th) 31.6 (27th) 930 (7th) NSH Defense
WSH Defense 2.8 (23rd) 29.3 (13th) 904 (24th) 2.6 (8th) 29.9 (14th) 8.6 (13th) WSH Offense
GA/60 SA/60 Save % GF/60 SF/60 Shoot %
Special Teams
GF/60 SF/60 Shoot % GA/60 SA/60 Save %
NSH 5-on-4 7.5 (4th) 52.9 (10th) 14.2 (7th) 6.3 (18th) 51.6 (17th) 878 (18th) NSH 4-on-5
WSH 4-on-5 6.5 (19th) 52.2 (22nd) 876 (19th) 5.1 (22nd) 49.8 (14th) 10.1 (23rd) WSH 5-on-4
GA/60 SA/60 Save % GF/60 SF/60 Shoot %

What happened to these guys? The Capitals look mediocre in just about every meaningful category here. I have to wonder if the whole transition they've made over the last year has taken them completely off the track. The case can certainly be made that certain players (like Alexander Semin) no longer fit the model being employed there; but which is the prudent choice - to swap out players, or reverse course and relaunch Alex Ovechkin's Flying Circus?

Washington Capitals

One of the most talked-about moves of the summer came when Washington picked up former Preds goaltender Tomas Vokoun for a mere $1.5 million on the free agent market, but Vokoun hasn't quite hit his stride yet for the Caps. This, from Japers' Rink's latest edition of Ups and Downs:

Tomas Vokoun After a four-game, 2.27/.929 run which featured three games in which he allowed just two goals against, you might have thought Vokoun was out of the woods. You'd have been wrong, as two routine shots and two unlucky deflections found their way through the Caps' elder Czech netminder and into the net against Philly in just forty minutes of work. But the run-up to that shellacking was somewhat encouraging, so let's chalk it up to (another) bump in the road.

Make sure to pop over to Japers' Rink for all things Caps, as the gang over there seems uncertain as well over how Dale Hunter will lead this team.

Of special note, tonight makes NHL game #1,000 for winger Mike Knuble, a steady vet who worked his way up from being a 4th-liner on the mid-90's Red Wings teams to become a dependable power forward for the Rangers, Bruins, Flyers, and now Capitals over a 15-year career (which followed four fine years of college hockey at the University of Michigan).

Mike Knuble

#22 / Right Wing / Washington Capitals



Jul 04, 1972

2011 - Mike Knuble 31 3 6 9 -7 12 0 0 0 49 6.1

Washington Capitals Last 5 Games

@ Colorado Sat 12/17 L 1 - 2
@ Winnipeg Thu 12/15 W 1 - 0
Philadelphia Tue 12/13 L 1 - 5
Toronto Fri 12/09 W 4 - 2
@ Ottawa Wed 12/07 W 5 - 3

Nashville Predators

With yesterday's callup of Jonathon Blum and Blake Geoffrion, the Preds have some options once again when it comes to setting the nightly lineup. Washington doesn't boast a real heavyweight enforcer, so I wouldn't be surprised to see Brian McGrattan scratched in favor of Boomer, but with Big Ern's recent play he may be able to hold off the kid for the time being.

On the blueline? It's possible we could see Blum crack the lineup in favor of Jack Hillen, but this may not be the game to break Blum back in, given some of the star-quality talent up front for Washington. Those are awfully deep waters to throw him into. UPDATE: Kevin Klein is out with the flu per Smashville 24/7, so there's your answer.

The man of the hour right now for Nashville may be Jordin Tootoo, who is enjoying one of the most productive streaks in his NHL career, with five goals and five assists in his last 11 games. It's either him, or your latest OTF Hero of the Week, Shea Weber, who has now caught Craig Smith for the team scoring lead:

Shea Weber

#6 / Defenseman / Nashville Predators



Aug 14, 1985

2011 - Shea Weber 32 8 16 24 15 24 5 1 1 99 8.1

The Preds will try to follow up on their earlier victory over Washington, a 3-1 triumph at Bridgestone Arena back on November 15. That game went largely scoreless until a late 3rd-period flurry of goals ended with the Preds victorious, a style of play that Nashville's been engaging in quite a bit lately.

Given the Caps gameplan, we may be in for another low-scoring, tight contest from start to finish tonight...