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Filip Forsberg puts focus on Predators, playoffs

But Nashville forward says it's still 'special' to play against Capitals, the team that drafted him

by Tom Gulitti @tomgulittinhl / Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- Almost four years after the Washington Capitals traded him to the Nashville Predators, Filip Forsberg has mostly moved on.

There was a time when Forsberg, the Capitals' first-round pick (No. 11) in the 2012 NHL Draft, envisioned teaming with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom to bring the Stanley Cup to Washington. Now he's focused on helping the Predators clinch a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Though Forsberg had a relatively quiet game, he was happy to leave Verizon Center with a 2-1 overtime win against the Capitals on Thursday. It gave the Predators (35-24-11) two valuable points, helping them solidify their hold on third place in the Central Division.

The Predators won both of their games this season against the Capitals, who lead the NHL with 98 points. Forsberg had one goal and two assists in a 5-2 victory against the Capitals in Nashville on Feb. 25.

In six career games against the Capitals, the 22-year-old forward has five goals and four assists, but he was held off the scoresheet on Thursday. Viktor Arvidsson was the hero, beating goaltender Braden Holtby under the glove from the left circle 1:05 into overtime.

Forsberg's most noticeable moment came during a second-period shift when he stripped Ovechkin of the puck from behind and then gave it back to him seconds later with an ill-advised pass across the middle of the neutral zone.

"It's the sixth time I've played against them now," Forsberg said. "It's obviously a special game, but it's been a long time."

Still, it's understandable if Capitals fans wonder what might have been had Forsberg never been traded. The Ostervala, Sweden, native leads the Predators in goals again this season, with 28, and ranks second on the team in points, behind Ryan Johansen, with 53.

When then-Capitals general manager George McPhee traded Forsberg on April 3, 2013 for forwards Martin Erat and Michael Latta, he was looking to add some experience, grit and scoring depth for the playoffs. Erat and Latta are no longer with the Capitals after having little impact and McPhee is starting over with the expansion Vegas Golden Knights.

Meanwhile, Forsberg continues to get better with the Predators.

"He's been a fairly consistent player now for almost three years as somebody that can put the puck in the back of the net and play a good 200-foot game," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said.

Video: WPG@NSH: Forsberg buries Johansen's feed on break

Forsberg attended prospect development camp with the Capitals the summer after they drafted him, but returned home after that to play another season with Leksands IF in Sweden's First Division, getting 33 points (15 goals, 18 assists) in 38 games. Forsberg planned to join the Capitals after that season and daydreamed about where he'd fit into their star-studded lineup.

"After I got drafted, I knew I wasn't going to come for that season, but the dream was to play with these guys," Forsberg said. "It changed pretty quickly."

Following the trade, Forsberg joined the Predators for five games at the end of the 2012-13 season and then split the 2013-14 season between Milwaukee in the American Hockey League and Nashville before establishing himself as a full-time NHL player in 2014-15.

After leading the Predators with 26 goals and 63 points in 2014-15, he did so again in 2015-16, with 33 goals and 64 points.

This season didn't go as smoothly initially. Forsberg didn't score a goal in the first 13 games and had two in the first 27.

"I think he was working to find his game at that point," Laviolette said. "In November, he had lots of chances and lots of looks and the puck wasn't dropping for him. He was working really hard to find the opportunities and it just wasn't bouncing. I think as it moved into December it started to bounce and he probably gained a little bit of confidence from that."

Since Dec. 13, Forsberg has 26 goals and 11 assists in 43 games. Boston Bruins left wing Brad Marchand is the only player in the NHL with more goals over that span, with 29.

Forsberg said he didn't change much from the way he was playing at the start of the season.

"Basically, it's going to go up and down throughout the season," he said. "Everyone is going through it at some point. It's just about doing the right things, doing the same things I've been doing since Day 1 and eventually it's going to go in for you."

The Predators top line of Forsberg, Johansen (seven goals, 30 assists) and Arvidsson (16 goals, 18 assists) has been dominant since Dec. 13, combining for 49 goals and 59 assists.

"We weren't really formed with lines the first 20 games of the season and then it took us about a month to really get a good feel for each other because that was the first time we played together," Johansen said. "But I could see it after about three or four games playing together -- me, him and [Arvidsson] -- that we were just getting chances after chances. [Forsberg] was a little frustrated at the time because [Arvidsson] was getting all the goals, but then he just started to take off and his scoring touch has been pretty ridiculous."

Video: NSH@ANA: Forsberg buries a top-shelf wrister for SHG

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