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Capitals continue playoff push against Predators

by John Kreiser

CAPITALS (34-28-12) at PREDATORS (32-32-11)


Last 10: Washington 5-3-2; Nashville 5-4-1

Season series: The Washington Capitals are making their first visit to Bridgestone Arena since Nov. 15, 2011. They beat the Nashville Predators 5-2 on Dec. 11 at Verizon Center and are 7-1-0 in the past eight games against Nashville.

Big story: The Capitals begin a stretch in which they play five of six on the road. That might be a good thing after they lost 4-2 at home at the Boston Bruins on Saturday, missing a chance to gain ground in the race for the two Eastern Conference wild-card spots in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Washington will try to bounce back against a Nashville team that's all but mathematically eliminated from the playoff race in the Western Conference.

Team Scope:

Capitals: Washington was outplayed by Boston during a scoreless first period before the Bruins took command with three goals in a span of less than 5 1/2 minutes in the second. It continued a trend of poor starts that is one reason the Capitals are on the outside looking in at the playoffs with two weeks remaining in the season.

"I think our team has had a little bit of trouble with our starts," forward Eric Fehr said. "I'm not sure exactly what it is. We need to find a way to get into the games quicker and get the adrenaline going and try to get the momentum going the right way."

Predators: Nashville had Saturday off after splitting a pair of wildly different games. The Predators routed the last-place Buffalo Sabres 6-1 on Thursday night in Nashville, then were routed 7-3 on the road Friday by the Dallas Stars.

The Predators, playing the second of a back-to-back, looked a step slow against the well-rested Stars.

"Maybe it's mental fatigue," forward Eric Nystrom told the Tennessean. "In a game like that, if you're not feeling like that, you make simple plays and we were making poor decisions with the puck and they were turning it up and ramming it down our throat. Those are the games you have to be mentally strong and make the right decision at the right time and we struggled with that [Friday]."

Who's hot: Washington rookie forward Evgeny Kuznetsov has goals in back-to-back games. … Nystrom scored in the games against Buffalo and Dallas; his 15 goals are one shy of his career high, set in 2011-12.

Injury report: Capitals defenseman Jack Hillen (upper body) and forward Mikhail Grabovski (ankle) are day-to-day. Forward Brooks Laich (groin) is out for the season. … Predators center Paul Gaustad (upper body), forward Patrick Eaves (lower body) and defenseman Seth Jones (concussion-like symptoms) are out.

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