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Caps Head to Nashville to Face Predators

Washington takes to the road this week, starting a two-game journey in Music City on Tuesday night

by Mike Vogel @VogsCaps / WashingtonCaps.com

Nov. 14 vs. Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena 

Time:
8:00 p.m.

TV: NBC Sports Washington 

Radio: 106.7 The Fan, Capitals Radio 24/7

Washington Capitals 10-7-1

Nashville Predators 9-5-2

After sweeping their first multi-game homestand of the season with wins over Pittsburgh and Edmonton, the Capitals head back out on the road this week. The Caps' first stop is in Nashville on Tuesday night, where they will take on the Predators.

Sunday night's 2-1 shootout victory over Edmonton was the Caps' fifth win in their last six games. Since an uneven 4-5-1 start to the season, a stretch during which the Capitals surrendered a whopping total of 37 goals, Washington has won six of eight games, and the two losses during that span were 1-1 hockey games in the third period. Most impressively, the Caps have allowed just 16 goals in their last eight games. 

Over the last week, Washington went 3-1-0 and it limited the opposition to just seven goals in those four games, including one empty-netter. Aside from that empty-netter, the six goals against all came at five-on-five as the Caps' penalty killing outfit was a perfect 11-for-11 on the week. Edmonton didn't have a single power play opportunity in Sunday's game. 

The consistently excellent play of goaltender Braden Holtby has been one of the early season strengths for the Capitals. He earned his sixth straight win and his 10th of the season with a terrific 29-save performance against the Oilers on Sunday. 

"Holts is the best player every night for us," said Caps right wing Tom Wilson after Sunday's game. "He made some huge saves, obviously. At this point, that's the pleasure that we have, is him showing up every night. We've got to do our best to keep the shots to the perimeter, but he does a good job when they do have a scoring chance. As a team, I thought we did a good job. Holding that squad to one goal is pretty good." 

Holtby was named the NHL's third star for the week ending Nov. 12. He went 3-0-0 with a 1.27 GAA and a .952 save pct. in his three starts last week.

Injuries, new faces and an infusion of youth into the lineup combined to make life difficult for the Capitals in the season's first 10 games, particularly in their own end of the ice. But the Caps are slowly getting healthier, and the offseason imports are slowly getting acclimated both on and off the ice. Most importantly though, the Caps younger players are also starting to feel at home and they're beginning to show that comfort level on the ice. 

Neither Chandler Stephenson nor Christian Djoos figured into the scoring of Washington's lone goal in Sunday's game, but both players stood out for their strong play in the Caps' fourth straight win at home. For the last two games, Stephenson has manned the left side of a line with Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie. Stephenson scored a key insurance goal late in Friday's win over Pittsburgh, but he was even better on Sunday against the Oilers. 

According to Caps coach Barry Trotz, intelligence and hockey sense are the traits that the two rookies have in common. 

"I've got a lot of trust with Stevie because he makes those real quality wall plays," says Trotz. "He understands that there are certain moments where he has to make a wall play, there are certain moments where he has to read and he has to be on the defensive side of pucks. He can get to spaces offensively. He's got a mature game for a young player still. So he's earning a lot more trust than maybe he did in training camp." 

Djoos hasn't been on the ice for an even-strength goal against in his last eight games, and he played a strong game all over the ice in Sunday's win.

"Djooser, he just keeps growing," says Trotz. "You can't put a price tag on intelligence when it comes to hockey sense and hockey IQ. He's got a lot of it, and he's got a lot of poise. He's got some of those traits that his father [former NHL defenseman Per Djoos] had; he was pretty good with the puck." 

Trotz then went on to compare the younger Djoos to another former Detroit blueliner, one who is a bit better known in hockey circles than is the elder Djoos. 

"[Christian Djoos] has a good hockey IQ and he's not overly big, but he managed the game pretty well," says Trotz. "He has sort of a Nick Lidstrom quality. You might not notice his subtleties, or the little, smart plays. He's not going to wow you with the big hit or anything, but he is going to be positionally sound and he is going to make the right decision a lot more than he is going to make a bad decision. That's what makes him a young player who has some special qualities, especially in that area." 

Another regularly deployed Washington rookie - defenseman Madison Bowey - has also been ramping his game northward in his first month in the league. Bowey picked up an assist on the Caps' lone goal in Monday's game, and with five points (five assists), he is tied for fourth in scoring among rookie NHL blueliners. Bowey has played in a dozen NHL games this season; each of the three defensemen ahead of him on the scoring list has played in at least four more games. 

Nashville carries a four-game winning streak into Tuesday's game. Only the New York Rangers - with a six-game winning spree - have a longer current winning streak among the 31 NHL clubs. The Predators played 10 of their first 15 games on the road this season, going 5-4-1 and winning each of their last three games away from Music City.

Earlier this month, the Preds went on a four-game trip to California and then Columbus. Beginning with Saturday night's 5-4 shootout win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Predators will play five of their next six games at home, where they are 4-1-1 this season. 

With Tuesday's game against the Capitals, the Preds will be halfway through the 16 games they must play against Metropolitan Division opponents this season. Nashville is 4-3-0 in its seven games against Metro foes thus far this season.

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