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Nashville Predators vs Washington Capitals Game Preview: D.C. = Duchene Country

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The Preds’ eventful season-opening homestand ends tonight against Ovi and Co.

NHL: Washington Capitals at Nashville Predators Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight’s the fourth and final game of the Predators’ season-opening homestand; a wacky affair that’s featured two blowouts, a head-scratching loss, Matt Duchene dishing out more apples than a Michigan cider mill, a weird social media debate over a pedal tavern that... sigh... this is going to go on all season, isn’t it?

Coming to town tonight? Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals. After two straight OT losses, the Caps are looking for a big win over a team that’s had their number over the past decade (more on that later).

But first, let’s dive into tonight’s showdown.

The Matchup

Nashville Predators

Record: 2-1-0 (4 pts)
Last Game: Defeated San Jose 5-2 on Tuesday night

Team Leaders:
Goals - Filip Forsberg (3)
Assists - Matt Duchene (6)
Points - Duchene (6)
Penalty Minutes - Austin Watson (7)
Wins - Pekka Rinne (2)
Save% - Rinne (.932)

Washington Capitals

Record: 2-0-2 (6 pts)
Last Game: Lost to Dallas 4-3 on Tuesday night

Team Leaders:
Goals - T.J. Oshie and Jakub Vrana (2)
Assists - John Carlson (4)
Points - Carlson (5)
Penalty Minutes - Jonas Siegenthaler (8)
Wins - Braden Holtby & Ilya Samsonov (1)
Save% - Samsonov (.962)

The Big Storylines

  • A tale of two offenses: The biggest headline from the Preds’ first three games has been the sudden outburst of scoring. The team has 13 goals so far; the most they’ve ever scored in the first three games of the season (their previous high was 12 in 2006-2007... which, funny enough, saw the Preds start 0-3). A lot of that has come courtesy of the Preds’ “big guns,” with the combo of Filip Forsberg, Matt Duchene, and Mikael Granlund grabbing most of the attention early on.

On the other end of the ice, it’s a bit of a different story for the Caps. Ovechkin is off to a slow start by his standards (just 1 goal and 1 assist in his first four games), and as a whole. the team’s had trouble finding the back of the net. However, a lot of those early struggles should be remedied with the return of Evgeny Kuznetsov, back after a three-game suspension for — well — you know.

The Caps are still easing Kuznetsov back into their lineup, but it’s probably a safe bet you see him with Ovi in some regard tonight. Those two together will pose the Predators’ biggest defensive test of the season.

  • How much can the Preds trust their bottom defensive pair?: No matter how you choose to judge a team — old-school stats, advanced analytics, the “eye test” — we can all reach the same conclusion; the Predators’ third pairing has played about as well as your chances of finding decent parking on 12 South on a Saturday night.

After two “woof” games with Dan Hamhuis and Yannick Weber, coach Peter Laviolette switched things up by inserting Matt Irwin into the line-up instead of the veteran Hamhuis. To Irwin’s credit, he didn’t play awfully against the Sharks, even surviving a 3:11 shift without damage on the scoreboard. Still, the trio has been caught in some bad defensive situations so far this season, and offensively, they’re not doing a lot to push the play.

Games like tonight is where that can hurt the Preds moving forward. The Caps have guys like Lars Eller and Carl Hagelin in the bottom-six, while their bottom defensive pair, Radko Gudas and Tyler Lewington, each have two points this season. The Preds need to find some sort of reliable play from the bottom pair to keep the depth guys off the scoresheet. It’s still early in the season, so no need to panic yet. But if the trio starts to struggle again, the Preds may want to investigate making a move.

  • The Preds have the Caps’ number: Remember on Saturday, we talked about how, for whatever reason, the Preds just have a really difficult time beating the Red Wings? Well, the Capitals are in the same sort of situation with the Predators.

The Preds have won 10 of the past 14 matchups dating back to the 2011-2012 season, including a current streak of six straight. Last year’s showdowns weren’t particularly close either, with the Preds winning 6-3 in Washington and 7-2 in Nashville.

What does this mean for tonight? Well... nothing honestly. It’s just a cool stat. But if you’re the superstitious type, at least you have some history on your side.

Tonight’s Song to Get You HYPPPPEEEEEDDDDD

How to Watch

Puck drop tonight’s at 7 PM CST. Folks here in the Music City can catch the game on Fox Sports Tennessee, or listen in on 102.5 The Game.