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Caps seek to end goal-scoring woes against Predators

by Adam Kimelman
PREDATORS (17-11-4) at CAPITALS (16-14-1)


Last 10:
Nashville 7-3-0; Washington 4-6-0

Season series:
This is the second and final meeting of the season between the teams. On Nov. 15 in Nashville, Predators forward Colin Wilson scored the game-winning goal with 24.3 seconds left in regulation, and Shea Weber added an empty-net goal as the Predators won 3-1.

Big Story:
Can the Predators win their sixth straight? Or can the Capitals win back-to-back games for just the second time under coach Dale Hunter?

Team Scope:

Predators: One thing Nashville has is multiple elite defensemen. So when a team like the Philadelphia Flyers loses a player the caliber of a Chris Pronger, it makes sense that speculation would focus on the Flyers and Predators talking about a deal for one of the Preds' top blueliners -- Weber and Ryan Suter.

The Flyers and Predators have worked well together on trades in the past, which adds further fuel to that fire, but Nashville general manager David Poile said he doesn't have much cooking right now.

"As I sit here today, I don't think we're going to be doing anything," Poile told the Tennessean. "Again, the team, for the most part, has been playing better the last week. There's been ups and downs and we're starting to track a little bit better, and a lot of things are better than they were.

"I don't think I'm different than any other manager. I'm always talking to other managers about improving our team, (but) it's not happening in terms of big trades with anybody."

The offense that was missing late in the tenure of former coach Bruce Boudreau still appears to be absent under Hunter's leadership. In nine games since the coaching change, the Capitals have just 21 goals, including one goal each in the last three games. For the season the Caps are ninth in the League at 2.90 goals per game, but in the last month (17 games), they've averaged just 2.23 goals per game, and have been held to one goal or fewer nine times.

Team captain Alex Ovechkin said part of the struggles is a result of players failing to get to the net for second-chance opportunities.

"If we have one shot, we don't find the rebound, we don't have second guy who goes to the net and tries to find the rebound," he told the Washington Post following Saturday's 2-1 loss to the Avalanche. "It's the kind of game when you have to score some dirty goals like from rebound or from a tip."

Who's Hot:
Weber, the Predators' captain, has 5 goals and 4 assists in his last 10 games. … Capitals defenseman Dennis Wideman has 2 goals and 4 assists in his last five games.

Injury Report:
The Predators are fielding a healthy team. … Capitals defensemen Jay Beagle (concussion) and Mike Green (groin) are out. Forward Mathieu Perreault is questionable (illness).

Stat Pack:
Each of the Predators' last 10 games has been a one-goal affair.

Puck Drop:
Tuesday's game will mark the 1,000th in the NHL career of Capitals forward Mike Knuble. What makes it even more impressive is the fact that he averaged just 50 games per season in his first seven seasons.

"I think as a player you can go in a cycle with your coach," Knuble told the Washington Times. "You can say, 'Well, give me the opportunity and I'll play well.' And the coach says, 'Well, play well and I'll give you the opportunity. You just go around in a circle like that."

He got the opportunity during the 2002-03 season, when he was with Boston and Sergei Samsonov broke his wrist. Knuble replaced him on the team's top line and, playing alongside Joe Thornton and Glen Murray, scored 30 goals. In seven seasons since then, Knuble has scored at least 20 goals each season, topped by a career-best 34 in 2005-06 with the Flyers.

"I guess I never really lost confidence as a player," he told the Times. "But things lined up and you take off from there."

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