The Nashville Predators begin a back-to-back set this weekend when they host the Washington Capitals this afternoon at Bridgestone Arena for a 4 p.m. CT puck drop. It's the first time the two clubs have seen each other this season; Nashville will skate in Washington on March 16.
Filip Forsberg will try to recreate some magic for the third consecutive game as he faces the team who drafted him in 2012. The Swede has hat tricks in consecutive games, including one of the natural variety on Thursday in a 4-2 win over the Avalanche. Viktor Arvidsson also scored in the contest and Pekka Rinne collected the win.
"By no means do I think that [Colorado] was an easy game, and by no means do I think [today] is an impossible game," Preds Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. "Washington is a good hockey team. Right now, their numbers are pointing for them as the best in the League, and we know it's going to be tough. But certainly, we have a lot of confidence in our room to win a hockey game."
With two assists on Thursday, Ryan Johansen remains atop the Preds scoring lead with 43 points, followed by Forsberg with 42 and Arvidsson with 41. Forsberg's 22 goals are first on the team, followed by Arvidsson with 19 and James Neal with 18. Rinne is 23-15-6 in net; Juuse Saros has gone 6-5-3.
Washington (40-12-7) is first in the NHL with 87 points and played Edmonton last night, topping the Oilers 2-1. Nicklas Backstrom leads the club with 63 points and Alexander Ovechkin is the top goal scorer with 27 goals. T.J. Oshie has tallied on 24 occasions and Evgeny Kuznetsov has 47 points on the season. Braden Holtby started against Edmonton and is 31-8-5 between the pipes; Philipp Grubauer is 10-4-2.
As the Preds look for a win against the League's top team, here are three things to watch for:
The chances Filip Forsberg records a hat trick for the third consecutive game this afternoon? Slim perhaps, but don't write anything off at this point.
He's done quite well when facing the team that originally drafted him back in 2012, recording four goals and six points in four career games against Washington, as well as a 28.6 shooting percentage, Forsberg's highest against any opponent.
"It's always a little special," Forsberg said of playing the Capitals. "We've played a lot of good teams, but this one is the best in the League right now. They're there for a reason, they've been playing really good hockey lately and it's going to be a tough challenge, but I think we're up for it."
Forsberg has gotten the most attention on Nashville's top line over the last week, but the trio, which also includes Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson, has been one of the League's best as of late, combining for 12 points over the last three games.
"I think all three of us kind of have the same mindset - we want to attack the game, we want to play offense and we kind of have a little bit of everything," Forsberg said. "Joey is a tremendous passer, one of the best in the League, and Arvi is so fast. I just try to shoot the puck and be in the right spots for them."
The Capitals played last night at home against the Oilers, then immediately flew to Nashville to rest up and prepare for another puck drop 22 hours later. Will the second half of the back-to-back make much of a difference for the League's top team? It remains to be seen, but a rested Preds team would undoubtedly like to strike early and often.
On the contrary, this is the third consecutive weekend Nashville has seen back-to-back sets on Saturday and Sunday. In these situations, Head Coach Peter Laviolette likes to distribute the ice time as best he can throughout his bench in order to not wear down on a select few with another game looming on Sunday.
When You Go:
Today's 4 p.m. CT start kicks off with a 2 p.m. Plaza Party presented by Lee Company. Fans can also receive a #HockeyLuv poster upon entry into Bridgestone Arena.
Take It In:
Pregame coverage for today's game begins at 3:30 p.m. on Fox Sports Tennessee; 102.5 The Game and the Preds Radio Network begins coverage at 3 p.m.