Photo: Daily Herald
The Washington Capitals host the Nashville Predators at Capital One Arena in the first meeting of the season between the past two Presidents’ Trophy winners on Monday afternoon. The Predators swept the past two season series with the Capitals and beat them 6-3 at Bridgestone Arena on November 14, 2017, and 4-3 in Washington on April 5 in last year’s season set. Action from the District can be seen on NBC Sports Washington beginning at 12:30 PM Eastern.
The Predators enter Monday’s matchup looking to avoid their sixth consecutive regulation loss and seventh overall. They have not won a game in regulation since December 11, a 3-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators at home. After winning eight straight games on the road to begin the season, but have lost 10 in a row away from home since (0-8-2). Immediately following Monday’s tilt in Washington, the Predators fly straight home to host the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night.
Nashville comes into Sunday’s game with the NHL’s best defense, averaging only 2.56 goals-against per game. They also allow the fourth-fewest shots against, yielding an average of 28.5 shots per game. They are currently a point ahead of the Colorado Avalanche for second place in the Central Division with 46 points with an equal number of games played between the two teams and four points behind the Winnipeg Jets for first in the division. The Jets, who eliminated the Predators in seven games when the two teams met in the second round after the Predators won the Presidents’ Trophy with 117 points a season ago, have a game in hand on Nashville.
Center Ryan Johansen leads the Predators with 25 assists and 31 points in 39 games. Former Capitals’ first-round draft pick, forward Filip Forsberg leads the Predators with 14 goals in only 26 games.
The Predators are currently dealing with the injury bug with Forsberg (upper-body), center Kyle Turris (lower-body), forward Colton Sissons (lower-body), and defenseman Yannick Weber (undisclosed) all out against the Capitals on Monday.
The Predators’ penalty kill, which kills off a rate of 80.6% of their penalties, ranks 12th in the league, and their power-play is tied with the Anaheim Ducks for the sixth-worst in the NHL, converting at a rate of only 14.9%. Nashville’s 52.3% faceoff-winning percentage ranks third in the league only behind the Flyers (55.7%) and the Anaheim Ducks (52.4%).
Reigning Vezina Trophy winner Pekka Rinne, who is 14-10-1 with a save percentage of .922, a goals-against average of 2.23, and two shutouts in 28 games this season, will likely start against the Capitals on Monday afternoon. Lifetime against Washington, the 36-year old goaltender is 5-4-1 with a save percentage of .915 and a goals-against average of 2.40.
The Capitals have won four consecutive games, nine of their last 10 games, and 16 of their past 19 entering Monday’s game. The team is coming off of a 3-2 win over the Senators on Saturday night. They became the fourth team in the league to eclipse the 50-point plateau with the win in Ottawa.
Captain Alex Ovechkin looks to snap a five-game goal-scoring drought, where he has tallied just two assists in that span. The 32-year old forward’s next goal will be his 30th this season, which will make him the first player in the NHL to do so this season. Before his recent dry spell, Ovechkin went on a six-game goal-scoring streak, where he tallied 10 goals, and a 14-game point streak, where he posted 17 goals and 23 points.
Defenseman Matt Niskanen will miss his second consecutive game with an upper-body injury, suffered from a hit by Carolina Hurricanes forward Clark Bishop in the Capitals’ 3-1 win over the Hurricanes on Thursday, but defenseman Brooks Orpik, who has missed the past 28 games with a knee injury, will be a game-time decision for Monday’s matinee with the Predators.
The Capitals rank third in the NHL with an average of 3.57 goals-per-game, which is behind only the Tampa Bay Lightning (4.18) and Toronto Maple Leafs (3.69), and eighth with an efficiency of 23.5% on the man advantage. The team owns five of the top-50 league leaders in terms of point-per-game average among players who have played at least 15 games: Ovechkin (1.22) is 17th, center Nicklas Backstrom (1.16) is 20th, center Evgeny Kuznetsov and forward Tom Wilson (1.06) are tied for 35th, and defenseman John Carlson (1.06) is 41st.
Goaltender Braden Holtby, who is 15-8-2 with a save percentage of .915, a goals-against average of 2.72, and two shutouts, will likely start for the Capitals on Monday afternoon. In seven career appearences against Nashville, the 29-year old netminder is 3-2-1 with a save percentage of .880 and a goals-against average of 3.56.
-Kuznetsov enters Monday’s game vs. the Predators two points shy of 300 in his career
-In 2018, the Capitals have a 49-23-7 record, the sixth most wins in the NHL
-Backstrom is one assist away from passing Henrik Zetterberg (623) for the eighth-most assists by a Swedish-born player
A Look Back In Time
In forward Mike Knuble’s 1000th career NHL game, Ovechkin got the game started going under the glove on a breakaway to beat goaltender Anders Lindback 7:41 in. With 4:09 left in the period, Backstrom made it 2-0 on a wraparound. After a scoreless second frame, the Predators cut the Capitals’ lead in half 4:40 into the third but forward Alexander Semin restored the two-goal lead with a wicked wrist shot that beat Lindback from the left circle with 9:39 left in regulation. Defenseman Dennis Wideman added a power-play goal with a slap shot from the point 13:36 into the third period. Goaltender Michal Neuvirth made 20 saves in the win.
By Harrison Brown