It's the first game back after...let's call it two consecutive road trips for the Nashville Predators, since Laviolette did. That stop home between Columbus and Carolina might have been a mistake.
The Capitals are coming off a two-game losing streak of their own: an OT loss to the Blue Jackets (sounds familiar) on a goal scored by Artemi Panarin from Seth Jones (sounds reeeeal familiar), followed by a blowout loss to a non-playoff team that should be better—in the Capitals' case, to the St. Louis Blues. The Caps played last night, which means they'll be tired for the current matchup, but the Predators should still be careful not to underestimate them.
Alex Ovechkin leads the team in points with 51 and goals with 33. He's been scoring at a terrific pace and in defiance of his age. Nicklas Bäckström's 45 points (11G/34A) are good for second on the team, while John Carlson leads defenders in points with 42 and all skaters in assists with 36.
Also, Tom Wilson is actually playing hockey when he can pencil it in between suspensions for dangerous play this year. He has 22 points in 26 games and gets regular top-six minutes, most often with Ovechkin. The Preds will not have the option of not putting skill players out against Wilson's line.
Braden Holtby was injured in Saturday's loss to the Blue Jackets. Backup Pheonix Copley, who has a .914 sv% this season, finished that game, played last night against the Blues, and may or may not start tonight against the Preds, depending on Holtby's status. The Capitals have not recalled any other goalies. Holtby has a .912 on the season.
For a change, the Caps' usually-deadly power play has been sputtering lately, while the penalty kill has been bleeding opportunities the last few games. The Capitals will have a great opportunity to frustrate us all by getting their PP back on track tonight.
The Nashville Predators
The Preds' Sunday matinee loss to the Hurricanes was...bad. Let's just put that out there.
The team has struggled recently with a whole lot of things, but their biggest issues have been getting quality and not giving quality up to the opponent. And the power play. And the defense, at all strengths and from forwards as well as defenders. Hopefully some familiar sights and sounds will inspire them to play better.
As much as I hate to say it, Pekka Rinne needs to play better as well. He can't be blamed for the team's recent surge of goals against—there have been way too many games lately where Rinne looked like the only Predators player who remembered the start time, and that takes its toll, as does the number of games someone of his age has been playing—but he has still been allowing more goals than is ideal. The team absolutely needs to play better in front of him, but it's not as much of a one-way street as I'd like it to be, either. It will be interesting to see if Juuse Saros gets the start tonight, at the very least so Rinne can get some rest.
Phillip Di Giuseppe was waived yesterday, which may mean someone—possibly Yannick Weber, who seemed to be practicing with Dan Hamhuis yesterday—is headed back from IR. Speaking of the defense pairings, yesterday's practice also included Roman Josi skating with P.K. Subban and Mattias Ekholm skating with Ryan Ellis. It might be just a practice nothing, but Im excited about the opportunity to see how Subban and Josi play together when the team isn’t on fire.
Reasons to Watch
- Definitely excited about this possible defense.
- Sometimes Filip Forsberg does things when playing the team that drafted him.
- Tuesday night hockey! The world has righted itself.
How to Watch
The game starts at 7 PM Central. You can watch it live at Bridgestone or on your TVs on FS-TN, or listen to the radio call on 102.5 The Game.