The Nashville Predators have struggled since returning from the All-Star Break, with losses to the Dallas Stars and Winnipeg Jets—boosting both teams’ playoff chances and hurting their own playoff positioning in the process. Now, they get another opportunity to sock away two points, this time against the Washington Capitals, although they will be missing Nick Cousins due to injury.
The Capitals have had a not-great time since returning from the break as well, though they did manage a win against the struggling Montreal Canadiens in there.
Vitek Vanacek (season sv% of .915) could return from injured reserve as soon as tonight, which would be a big boost to the Caps—in Vanacek’s absence they’ve been relying on Ilya Samsonov (season sv% of .903) and Pheonix Copley (season sv% of .878). Replacing below-average goaltending with above-average goaltending is never a bad thing for a team.
Up front, it’s the same familiar names. Alex Ovechkin leads the team with 60 points and 29 goals, while Evgeny Kuznetsov has the assists lead with 33, comes in second in total scoring with 48 points, and is tied for second in goals with Tom Wilson (15). John Carlson trails them with 28 assists and 37 points. While Nicklas Backstrom has only managed 14 points on the season, he also missed most of the season to date; his contributions have come over only 17 games, and he shouldn’t be overlooked. T.J. Oshie has also had an injury-plagued season, and has not traveled to Nashville.
The Caps’ power play has struggled this season, with even Ovechkin getting most of his prodigious scoring done at even strength (and about as many empty-net as power-play goals). Still, especially with Backstrom back, the Preds should (weary sigh) make an attempt to stay out of the penalty box. The Caps’ penalty kill is so-so, but they’ve very sensibly addressed this by not taking that many penalties.
It could be a win for the Preds—it’s certainly a winnable game—and it should be a fun one.
How to Watch
Catch the game at 7PM Central on Bally Sports South or 102.5 The Game.