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Predators, Capitals seek four-game winning streak

by Brian Hunter
CAPITALS (3-1-0) at PREDATORS (3-0-0)

Season series:
This is the only meeting of the 2010-11 season between these teams. Alex Ovechkin completed the unofficial hat trick to give Washington a 3-2 win in the most recent matchup on Oct. 17, 2009. After scoring both of the Capitals' regulation goals, Ovechkin added the only tally in the shootout. Shea Weber and J-P Dumont lit the lamp for the Predators.

Big story: Both teams come in riding three-game winning streaks built on the strength of young goaltenders. Michal Neuvirth has started all four games for the Capitals, posting a 2.22 goals-against average and .924 save percentage. Anders Lindback relieved Pekka Rinne after the Predators' starting goalie suffered an injury in the season opener, and has won consecutive starts since, with a 2.19 GAA and .925 save percentage.
Team Scope:
Capitals: Nicklas Backstrom's first goal of the season, a power-play strike with 3:39 left in the third period, allowed Washington to sweep a three-game homestand with a 2-1 victory over the New York Islanders on Wednesday. The Capitals opened at the Verizon Center by routing the Devils, then won consecutive tightly-played games, scoring an overtime win against the Senators on an Ovechkin goal before edging the Isles behind 23 saves from Neuvirth.

"It's all about confidence," the 22-year-old Czech native said. "Everybody says you get more confident with every minute on the ice. It's been great. It's been a tough week, but I'm feeling great and I'm pretty happy with the effort. Three wins in a row, it means a lot to me."

Predators: This is the second-best start in Nashville franchise history -- the Predators won their first eight games to begin the 2005-06 season. They've won both of Lindback's starts by one goal, as Joel Ward scored on the power play with 26.7 seconds remaining to knock off the defending-champion Blackhawks in Chicago, then Steve Sullivan connected twice on Thursday for a 4-3 win over the Blues on home ice.

"Of course it is only just two games, but I am learning as I am doing it," Lindback said. "I'm having fun out there. I'm trying to get as much experience as I can."

Who's hot: Ovechkin has wasted no time planting himself around the top of the scoring categories with 4 goals and 7 points, while rookie defenseman John Carlson has 1 goal and 5 points for the Capitals during a three-game points streak. … Sullivan leads the Predators with 4 goals and 5 points, while Cal O'Reilly contributed 3 assists in the win over the Blues.

Injury report: Semyon Varlamov, the other young Washington goalie, is expected to dress for the first time this season after missing the first four games with an undisclosed injury. Defensemen Mike Green (stinger) and Tom Poti (lower body) and forwards Matt Bradley (lower body) and Marcus Johansson (foot) are all day-to-day.

Rinne (lower body) is day-to-day for Nashville, which has fellow rookie Mark Dekanich backing up Lindback. Also day-to-day are forwards Martin Erat (back spasms) and Matthew Lombardi (upper body). Forward Jamie Lundmark (groin) is on injured reserve.

Stat pack: Neuvirth is bidding to become the first Capitals goalie to start five in a row to begin a season since Olaf Kolzig in 1999-2000. … The Predators are the first team since the 2006-07 Kings to score the winning goal via the power play in each of their first three games. They are 4-for-13 with the man advantage.

Puck drop: General Manager David Poile and coach Barry Trotz, who have been with Nashville since the inception of the franchise, both have roots in the Washington organization. Poile spent 15 seasons as GM of the Capitals while Trotz had a five-season run coaching their AHL affiliates, first in Baltimore and later in Portland.

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