Predators-Capitals Preview

The Associated Press

The Nashville Predators are providing a perfect example of the consistency the Washington Capitals seek.

After an unbeaten homestand, the Predators hit the road looking to extend their season-best winning streak to six Tuesday night against the sputtering Capitals.

Nashville (17-11-4) has played 10 consecutive one-goal games - winning seven, including the last five in a row to negate a 2-6-1 stretch.

"It's been a key time for us, especially when we had that little bit of tough stretch there before this winning streak," goalie Pekka Rinne said after making 39 saves - then three more in the shootout - in Saturday's 2-1 win over St. Louis, which capped a 4-0-0 homestand.

The Capitals (16-14-1) would love to string together some victories to get back into playoff position in the Eastern Conference, but their surprisingly meager offense is holding them back.

The club has more goals than any other NHL team since the start of the 2007-08 season, but it has been held to one goal in three straight contests - the third time this season Washington has gone three consecutive games with one goal in each.

It fell to 4-5-0 under new coach Dale Hunter and 9-14-1 since a 7-0-0 start with Saturday's 2-1 loss at Colorado.

"Rebounds are a big key to getting goals now in the league. You've got to get those secondary chances," forward Jason Chimera said. "It seems like we're one and done and not getting those rebound goals and those ugly goals in front of the net, so we've got to get back to that."

Some increased production from their stars would also help the Capitals get back on track. Alex Ovechkin has gone 20 games since his last multi-point effort, posting just five goals and five assists along with a minus-10 rating in that stretch.

Alexander Semin has just two points in his last nine contests, although he did score Washington's lone goal in Denver.

Martin Erat scored the Predators' only regulation tally Saturday, his first in December to go along with eight assists in eight games this month.

Erat powered Nashville past the Capitals last month, as the Predators broke through for a stirring win Nov. 15 after losing the previous four meetings in either overtime or shootout.

The game was scoreless with five minutes left in regulation until Troy Brouwer gave the Capitals the lead, but Erat tied it 28 seconds later and set up Colin Wilson's game-winner with 24.3 seconds left before Shea Weber's empty-netter sealed the 3-1 victory.

Rinne ended up with 39 saves in that game, outdueling Tomas Vokoun - the former longtime Nashville stalwart who fell to 1-3-0 against the Predators.

Vokoun was pulled from his last start last Tuesday after allowing four goals on 21 shots in 40 minutes of a 5-1 loss to Philadelphia, but he could return considering the way Hunter discussed the Avalanche's game-winning goal Saturday against Michal Neuvirth.

"It's pretty obvious he'd want that one back," the coach said.

Tuesday's contest will be Washington winger Mike Knuble's 1,000th NHL game.

"So many things have to go right to be around that long, so I'm very thankful for that," Knuble said.

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