Predators-Capitals Preview


While the Washington Capitals are in a bit of a rough patch, a matchup against the last-place Nashville Predators could help them bounce back.

Washington tries to continue its dominance of the Predators, who hope to avoid a season-worst fifth consecutive loss Saturday night.

The Capitals (14-12-2) followed a season-worst four straight defeats with back-to-back wins, but they saw their woes resume Tuesday in a 4-1 loss to Carolina. Braden Holtby allowed the game's first four goals on 23 shots through two periods before getting pulled in favor of Philipp Grubauer.

"I think every team goes through their highs and lows," said defenseman Mike Green, who provided all the offense with his first goal. "We have been very successful at going through streaks in the past, and that's maybe why it seems like we are so up and down."

The Capitals went 1 for 5 on the power play, wasting a couple of great opportunities. After going 20 for 71 (28.2 percent) on the man advantage through its first 17 contests, Washington has gone 5 for 37 (13.5 percent) during an 11-game stretch.

"I don't think it's movement, I think it's reads," coach Adam Oates said. "I don't think we're putting the puck in the right spot. ... We're not used to being stuck."

The Capitals have been outscored 19-9 during a 1-4-0 stretch at home.

"I think we just have to be mentally calm. Nobody knows exactly what we have to do. Sometimes we just make bad decisions with the puck," said Alex Ovechkin, who leads the NHL with 21 goals. "We just have to play and not think about anything. Of course we want to win, of course we want to get results, but we have to be fresh in our minds and do the simple things."

The Predators (13-13-3) could also benefit from getting back to the basics. Sitting at the bottom of the Central Division, Nashville has been outscored 13-5 during an 0-3-1 skid.

"Obviously, a tough stretch here and not playing the way we should be," said Shea Weber, who has been out since taking a puck to the face last Thursday.

The Predators, though, are hoping to have their captain available against Washington. Nashville is 7-0-0 when Weber scores and 8-1-1 when he records at least one point.

While Weber has two goals and four assists in seven career matchups in the series, Washington is 6-1-0 in those games. The Capitals are also 6-2-0 all-time in the series at home.

That doesn't bode well for a Predators team coming off Thursday's 5-2 loss to Carolina. Rookie Marek Mazanec surrendered a season worst-tying four goals on 13 shots before giving way to Carter Hutton.

"Their top guys were good tonight, and we didn't have a match for them," coach Barry Trotz told the league's official website. "Some of our top guys weren't on today. I think our core wasn't as strong. Every moment counts, and those little moments where we forget a play, or we're not ready to play, cost us."

It's unclear who the Capitals will go with in goal with Michal Neuvirth (ankle) expected to remain out through the weekend. Grubauer, who stopped all nine shots he faced Tuesday, could again see action Saturday or Sunday at the New York Rangers.

"We'll see how the games go," Oates said. "Sometimes you have no choice."

Holtby is 1-3-0 with a 4.04 goals-against average in his last four home games. He has never faced Nashville.

Predators center Matt Hendricks, who spent the previous three seasons with Washington, faces his former team for the first time.

Ovechkin has five goals and four assists in seven games versus Nashville.