Preds seek offense against Capitals
Saturday, 10.17.2009 / 7:00 PM
PREDATORS (2-4-0) at CAPITALS (3-2-2)
Season Series: This is the only meeting between the Capitals and Predators this season. Washington won both meetings last season, 4-3 in a shootout and 2-1 in overtime.
Big Story: Washington will try to make it two wins in a row after snapping a four-game losing streak Thursday while the Predators are out to snap their own four-game losing streak. Three of Nashville's four games were at home and still it was outscored by a combined 16-2. The Capitals skated to a 4-1 win over San Jose on Thursday and believe that is the kind of win that can set them sailing into a prosperous season.
Predators: All we can say about Nashville's offense right now is yikes! Two goals in the last 240 minutes of hockey just won't cut it. The Predators have barely had first-line winger J.P. Dumont, which obviously puts a crimp into their offense, but it's hardly the only reason they have scored just seven regulation goals in six games. Dumont, who played only seven minutes in the season opener, returned in Thursday's 3-1 loss to Chicago and logged 16:21. He's a big piece, but Jason Arnott (3-2-5), Shea Weber (0-2-2), Steve Sullivan (1-1-2), Ryan Suter (0-3-3), Martin Erat (1-0-1) and David Legwand (0-0-0) have to pick it up. A pleasant surprise has been the play of Patric Hornqvist (2-3-5), but he's also a minus-3 with zero points in the last two games.
Capitals: Jose Theodore suffered back spasms in the first period of Thursday's game and couldn't return after the first intermission. He will not suit up tonight, meaning Semyon Varlamov will get the nod. Varlamov had two rough starts this season, but he was excellent in stopping all 15 shots he faced over the final two periods Thursday and coach Bruce Boudreau hopes that's a precursor to more sustained success for the Russian rookie. The Caps will have 2008 fourth-round pick Braden Holtby as Varlamov's backup. According to the Washington Post, Holtby was going to begin his season in the ECHL with the South Carolina Stingrays. Now he'll be on the bench at Verizon Center.
Who's Hot: There isn't anybody scorching in Nashville right now, but Arnott and Hornqvist at least have five points and Francis Bouillon is 14th in the NHL with 21 hits. … Ovechkin is again cooking in D.C. He had two goals Thursday, giving him a League-best seven goals and 14 points entering Friday's action. Alexander Semin scored as well and now has six goals. Brendan Morrison has six points.
Injury Report: The Predators have forward Jordin Tootoo on injured reserve with a quad injury. He hasn't played this season. The Caps have ruled Theodore out of tonight's game and defenseman John Erskine is on IR with a hand injury. Tomas Fleischmann is on long-term injured reserve with a blood clot.
Stat Pack: Nashville's forwards have combined for 14 points through six games while Ovechkin has 14 points through seven. The Predators totaled 13 shots on goal in Thursday's 3-1 loss to Chicago while Ovechkin had the exact same amount in the Caps' 4-1 win over San Jose. Ovechkin has five points in three career games against Nashville. The Predators are 26th in the NHL in penalty kill (66.7 percent) after finishing 10th last season (82.5 percent).
Puck Drop: "Obviously everybody has a little smile on their face now, but there is still a long way to go," Knuble said after the Caps win Thursday. "You can easily slide back again. The trick is to get stronger on Saturday and then even stronger after that. We have had a difficult schedule and we got through it OK, so now we're looking forward to better things come Saturday."
-- Dan Rosen, NHL.com