Photo: Geoff Burke/Getty Images
The Washington Capitals host the Nashville Predators for the second and final meeting between the two teams this season on Wednesday night. The Predators took a wild first game against the Capitals earlier this season by a score of 6-5 at Bridgestone Arena with four third-period goals, their seventh straight victory against Washington. Action from Capital One Arena can be seen on NBCSN‘s “Wednesday Night Hockey” broadcast beginning at 7:30 PM ET.
The Predators start a short two-game Metropolitan Division road trip on back-to-back nights as they head to Newark to face the New Jersey Devils on Thursday night; they will play seven of their next nine games away from home. They are 3-1-1 in their last five on the road after going 1-2-1 in their previous four and are 11-9-3 overall on the season. The Predators wrapped up a 1-2-0 homestand on Monday night when they fell to the Toronto Maple Leafs by a score of 5-2 in their first game back from their bye-week.
After making the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the fifth consecutive year in 2018-19 and starting this season 8-3-2, the Predators have fallen to last place in the Central Division and are six points out of a wild-card spot in the Western Conference. They have been held to two or fewer goals in each of their last five games and have given up at least four goals in three of their last four games. Earlier this month, they fired head coach Peter Laviolette after five and a half seasons in the Music City and hired former Devils head coach John Hynes, who was fired on December 3.
Captain Roman Josi leads the Predators with 34 assists, 48 points, and a +21 rating while his 14 goals are one behind Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton for the league-lead among blueliners and two behind forward Filip Forsberg for the team-lead. Center Nick Bonino is tied with him for second on the Predators in goals. After a 12-game point steak where Josi had seven goals and 20 points, the 29-year old has two assists in his last five.
The Predators are currently ninth in the NHL with an average of 3.27 goals-per-game but are allowing the ninth-highest goals-against average per game (3.25). After the team signed center Matt Duchene to an eight-year contract in the offseason in an effort to improve their power-play that ranked last in the league last season with a 12.9% efficiency, they haven’t gotten much better, sporting a 16.8% efficiency, which is 24th. Their penalty-killing is also struggling, with an efficiency of just 74%, the third-worst in the league. Their average of 33.9 shots-per-game is the third-highest behind only the Montreal Canadiens (34.9) and Vegas Golden Knights (34.1) while their average of 29.8 shots-against per game is the fourth-fewest. The Predators’ 52% faceoff-winning percentage is the fifth-highest in the league.
Goaltender Pekka Rinne, who is 16-11-3 with an .897 save percentage, a 2.98 goals-against average, and three shutouts this season, will likely start in net for the Predators against the Capitals on Wednesday. He became the first NHL goalie to score a goal since 2013 earlier this month. In seven career games against the Capitals, the 37-year old is 6-1-0 with an .896 save percentage and a 2.86 goals-against average. He made 21 saves in the Predators’ 6-5 win over the Capitals in October.
The Capitals begin a stretch where they play five out of their next six and seven out of their next 11 at home after two straight on the road\. They are 15-5-4 at home this season and have won their last two games and four out of their last five (4-1-0). The Capitals have scored at least five goals in three out of their past five at home.
After defeating the Canadiens by a score of 4-2 in their first game back from the bye week, the Capitals are coming into Wednesday night’s contest on a four-game winning steak and with seven wins in their last nine games. They have scored 15 goals in their past three games. The Capitals can pad their lead for first in the Metropolitan Division to eight points with a victory on Wednesday night, though the Pittsburgh Penguins, who are second, will have a game in hand after the Capitals are done with the Predators.
Defenseman John Carlson’s four-game assist streak, where he notched eight helpers, ended against the Canadiens but his 60 points in 50 games this season are the tenth-most in the NHL. His 47 assists are tied with Florida Panthers forward Jonathan Huberdeau for third while his +18 rating is tied for 12th and for second on the Capitals behind only defenseman Radko Gudas, who is tied for fifth with a +22 rating. Captain Alex Ovechkin, who recorded eight goals in his final three games before the bye week and looks to score a hat-trick in a third straight game for the first time in his career, ranks third in the league with 34 goals this season. Forward Jakub Vrana has recorded eight goals and 11 points during a nine-game point streak and has three goals during a three-game goal-scoring streak.
The Capitals’ average of 3.56 goals-per-game ranks fifth in the league this season while their average of 2.88 goals-against per game is tenth. Their 20.5% power-play efficiency entered Tuesday night tied with the Minnesota Wild for 12th in the NHL but their 84.5% penalty-killing rate was second behind only the San Jose Sharks (87.3%). The Capitals’ average of 32.1 shots-per-game is the tenth-highest and their average of 29.9 shots-against per game is the sixth-lowest.
After ending a three-game winless streak with a 31-save performance against the Canadiens, goaltender Braden Holtby, who is 19-9-4 with an .899 save percentage and a 3.05 goals-against average this season, will get the net again for the Capitals against the Predators on Wednesday. In nine career games against the Predators, the 30-year old is 3-4-1 with an .866 save percentage and a 4.09 goals-against average and has allowed 18 goals in his last three games against them, all regulation losses. He made 32 saves in the Capitals’ 6-5 loss in Nashville earlier this season.
- Carlson enters Wednesday two assists shy of passing Calle Johansson (361) for the most assists by a defenseman in franchise history
- Ovechkin enters Wednesday one goal shy of passing Steve Yzerman (692) for the ninth most goals in NHL history
- This season, 22 of Vrana’s 23 goals have come at even strength, which ranks third in the NHL, only trailing Auston Matthews (26) and Ovechkin (23), and his 2.95 points per 60 minutes of five-on-five play (2.95) is sixth
- Vrana ranks first among players with at least 10 games this season in the NHL in goals per 60 minutes of five-on-five play (1.91); no player since 2009-10 (when the NHL first began recording scoring rates) has recorded a rate as high as Vrana with at least 50 games played through 50 games
- Monday’s 4-2 victory in Montreal was the Capitals’ NHL-leading 17th comeback win of the season
- The Capitals hold an NHL-best 9-6-2 record when they trail after the first period (.529 points percentage), an NHL-best 7-10-1 record when trailing after the second period (.389 points percentage), and a 14-10-2 record when they allow the game’s first goal – the second-best win percentage (.538) in the NHL (Boston Bruins: 11-3-4, .611)
By Harrison Brown