|Washington Capitals||Nashville Predators|
|5-on-5 Close SF/60||28.1||23rd||29.4||17th|
|5-on-5 Close SA/60||31.0||23rd||27.0||4th|
|5-on-5 Close Save %||.925||17th||.907||28th|
|# of PP's/Gm||3.58||2nd||2.99||28th|
|# of PK's/Gm||3.55||25th||2.92||3rd|
The Caps need two points out of this game desperately, as they're part of a four-team race for the final two Eastern Conference playoff spots, standing two points behind Columbus and Detroit. They rolled into town last night after having lost to the Boston Bruins Saturday afternoon,
Of course, a visit by the Capitals means a chance to watch one of the NHL's most dynamic players in Alex Ovechkin, who is running away with the goal-scoring race. Ovi is one of those guys that fills up the building when on the road, and with good reason. But many at Bridgestone Arena will only have eyes for former Nashville Predator Joel Ward, who returns to Smashville enjoying his finest season as a pro.
Wardo is currently Washington's third-leading scorer, with 22 goals and 20 assists, and is his third season with Washington after departing Nashville as a free agent in the summer of 2011. His rise to becoming an NHL regular was a great Predators story from 2008-2011, and I have a feeling he'll always receive a warm welcome at Bridgestone Arena for years to come.
The interesting news ahead of tonight's game is the (not officially announced yet) recall of forward Mark Van Guilder from the Milwaukee Admirals. Van Guilder is a career minor-leaguer, with six pro seasons under his belt after a full college career at Notre Dame. It's nice to see a guy like that finally cash an NHL paycheck and make his big-league debut, but it does make for an interesting selection.
At the other end of the ice, we'll want to keep a close eye on Pekka Rinne, who has struggled of late. Surely he will want to get right back to action after giving up a career-high 7 goals against Dallas Friday night, but you have to wonder if his confidence might be rattled given the fact that he's given up four goals or more in five out of his last six games.
Can Rinne return to form against Alex Ovechkin and the Caps? Stay tuned to see how this turns out...