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AAA Keys to the Game: Capitals vs. Predators

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AAA Keys to the Game: Capitals vs. Predators

The Capitals (38-9-4, 80 points) will go for their fourth straight victory tonight when they visit the Nashville Predators (25-20-8, 58 points) at Bridgestone Arena (7:30 p.m. pregame, CSN). Here are our AAA Keys to the Game:

Children of the Korn: Tonight will feature a matchup of two elite goaltenders who spent time under the tutelage of Caps goaltending guru Mitch Korn. Braden Holtby (33-5-3, 2.06, .929) has gone an incredible 25-1-3 in his last 30 appearances for the Capitals. In three career games against the Predators Holtby is 1-1-0 with a 4.05 GAA and .886 SP. Pekka Rinne (20-17-7, 2.50, .904) has won four of his last six decisions and is coming off a 28-save win over the Sharks on Saturday. A three-time Vezina Trophy finalist, Rinne worked under Korn from 2007-14. In two career games against Washington Rinne is 2-0-0 with a 2.00 GAA and .940 SP.

Where the Caps stand: The Caps have opened up a 12-point lead on the Florida Panthers in the East and a 15-point leads on the Rangers in the Metro Division. They are also four points ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks (with five games in hand) in their chase for the Presidents’ Trophy.

Where the Predators stand: The Preds followed back-to-back losses to the Blues and Flyers with a 6-2 rout of the Sharks on Saturday. They are 5-0-2 in their last seven games and hold one of the two wild-card playoff spots in the West, three points ahead of the Caps’ next opponent, the Minnesota Wild.

What the Caps are saying: “Some of these teams are in playoff mode already because they’re in the fight to get in. That’s good for us. It forces us to play intense hockey, battle-ready hockey.” - defenseman Matt Niskanen

Remember us?: Left wing Filip Forsberg, taken by the Caps 11th overall in the 2012 draft and traded to the Preds in the deal that brought Michael Latta and Marty Erat to Washington, has 15 goals and 18 assists in 53 games for the Preds this season. He scored a goal and had two assists in Nashville’s 6-2 win over San Jose on Saturday. Center Mike Ribeiro, who played one season for the Caps after being acquired from the Stars for Cody Eakin and a second-round pick, has six goals and 27 assists in 53 games for the Preds.

Statistically speaking: The Caps have outscored opponents 63-41 in third periods this season; the Preds have been outscored 55-53. The Caps lead the NHL with a power-play proficiency of 24.2 percent; the Preds are 12th at 19.5 percent. The Caps rank fifth in the NHL in penalty killing (84.1 percent); the Preds rank 23rd (78.7 percent).

Milestone watch: Nicklas Backstrom is one goal away from passing Kelly Miller (162) for 12th on the Caps’ all-time goals list. Evgeny Kuznetsov is one point shy of 100 NHL points, a milestone achieved by Karl Alzner on Sunday.

On the road again: The Caps are 18-5-2 on the road this season, ranking first in the NHL in wins (18) and road points (38). The Caps’ 18 road wins is tied for the most road victories through a team’s first 25 road games in NHL history. The Caps are 14-3-2 in their last 19 road games.

D stands for O: With goals from Matt Niskanen and Dmitry Orlov on Sunday the Caps now rank tied for seventh in the NHL in points from defensemen with 108. Only Nashville (131), Calgary (119), Dallas (119), San Jose (114), Chicago (113) and Montreal (110) have more.

Yee-haw: Today is Andre Burakovsky’s 21st birthday. He is the youngest player on their current roster.

RELATED: Gretzky weighs in on whether Ovi can catch him

Here is tonight’s projected roster:

CAPITALS

Forward lines

Alexander Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie

Andre Burakovsky - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Justin Williams

Jason Chimera - Marcus Johansson - Tom Wilson

Brooks Laich - Mike Richards - Michael Latta

Defense pairs

Nate Schmidt - John Carlson

Karl Alzner - Matt Niskanen

Dmitry Orlov - Taylor Chorney

Goaltenders

Braden Holtby (starter) - Philipp Grubauer

Scratched: Stanislav Galiev

Injured: Brooks Orpik (lower body), Jay Beagle (hand)

PREDATORS

Forward lines

Calle Jarnkrok - Ryan Johansen - James Neal

Filip Forsberg - Mike Ribeiro - Viktor Arvidsson

Colin Wilson - Mike Fisher - Craig Smith

Austin Watson - Paul Gaustad - Miikka Salomaki

Defense pairs

Roman Josi - Shea Weber

Mattias Ekholm - Ryan Ellis

Anthony Bitetto - Barret Jackman

Goaltenders

Pekka Rinne (starter) - Carter Hutton

Scratched: Cody BassPetter Granberg

Injured: Eric Nystrom (broken foot), Gabriel Bourque (upper body)

MORE CAPITALS: Is Johansson ready to return for Capitals?

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Caps make second blue line addition, acquire Jakub Jerabek from Montreal

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Caps make second blue line addition, acquire Jakub Jerabek from Montreal

The Capitals continued to retool their scuffling blue line on Wednesday, acquiring 26-year-old defenseman Jakub Jerabek from Montreal in exchange for a fifth-round pick in 2019.

The move comes a couple of days after GM Brian MacLellan dealt a conditional third-round selection to Chicago for swift skating Michal Kempny.

Both Jerabek and Kempny are left shot, puck-moving defensemen who move well and make crisp outlet passes. Both also hail from the Czech Republic.

RELATED: BRADEN HOLTBY BLAMES HIMSELF FOR TAMPA LOSS

The team sees Jerabek as a No. 5 or 6, I’m told.

On Wednesday, the Caps also officially said goodbye to Taylor Chorney, who was claimed off waivers by Columbus. Chorney will report to the Blue Jackets.

The Caps were off on Wednesday as they made their way Florida for Thursday night’s meeting with the Panthers, so it’s unclear how Coach Barry Trotz intends to deploy his new defensemen.

But it’s probably safe to assume that Kempny will move into a spot within the top four with John Carlson, Dmitry Orlov and Matt Niskanen.

MORE CAPITALS: GET TO KNOW MICHAL KEMPNY

That figures to leave Brooks Orpik and Jerabek on the third pair, while rookies Christian Djoos and Madison Bowey jockey for position as the next man up.

Kempny is expected to make his Caps’ debut on Thursday night.

Is the Caps’ D corps better? Well, that remains to be seen. But it had become clear to MacLellan and Co. in recent weeks that the status quo was not going to cut it. This month, in fact, the team has allowed 39 goals in 10 games. Only the Rangers (40) have allowed more in the same span.

With the trade deadline looming next Monday, the Caps now have roughly $617,000 in cap space, according to www.capfriendly.com, and are at the roster maximum of 23 players. So they would need to make a move in order to add another body.

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NHL Trade Tracker 2018: Latest deadline rumors, deals

NHL Trade Tracker 2018: Latest deadline rumors, deals

The 2018 NHL Trade Deadline is nearly here, marking the final point in the season teams can make major shakeups before preparing for the stretch run and the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The 2018 NHL Trade Deadline takes place a week earlier than in 2017, and teams have until 3:00 p.m. ET on Monday afternoon, February 26 to make their final pre-deadline deals. That being said, the trade deadline is not the end of player movement in 2018, but signifies the end of the open trade window.

But with less than w eek left, the trade rumors are swirling, with teams putting out feelers and reaching out to potential trade partners.

The Capitals started the trade deadline period a week early, with a minor trade on Monday and another on Wednesday.

RELATED: TRACKING THE FAVORITES TO WIN NHL AWARDS

2018 NHL TRADE DEADLINE TRACKER:

February 21: TRADE — The Montreal Canadiens trade D Jakub Jerabek to the Washington Capitals for a fifth-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft. (TRADE ANALYSIS)

February 21: RUMOR — The Columbus Blue Jackets have shown interest in acquiring Artem Anisimov from the Chicago Blackhawks, a team attempting a major rebuild toward the end of the 2017-18 season.

February 20: TRADE — The Toronto Maple Leafs trade C Erif Fehr to the San Jose Sharks for a seventh-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft.

February 20: RUMOR — The Ottawa Senators are looking to deal D Erik Karlsson and C Bobby Ryan. The Sens have already begun to enter "tank" mode. Moving Karlsson and/or Ryan would make it all but official.

February 20: TRADE — The New York Rangers trade D Nick Holden to the Boston Bruins for D Rob O'Gara and a third-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft.

February 19: TRADE — The Chicago Blackhawks trade D Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals for a third-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft. (TRADE ANALYSIS)

February 19: RUMOR — The Anaheim Ducks look to be targeting Vancouver Canucks LW Thomas Vanek, but the Canucks may 'kick tires" on a potential trade if the return isn't right. 

February 19: TRADE — The Detroit Red Wings trade G Petr Mrazek to the Philadelphia Flyers for a conditional fourth-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft and a conditional third-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft.

February 19: RUMOR — The Pittsburgh Penguins are interested in pursuing speedy New York Rangers RW Michael Grabner.

February 17: RUMOR — The Ottawa Senators' fire sale continues to heat up. The St. Louis Blues are reportedly interested in Senators RW Mike Hoffman and C Derick Brassard.

February 15: TRADE — Toronto Maple Leafs trade RW Nikita Soshnikov to the St. Louis Blues for a fourth-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft.

February 15: TRADE — The Chicago Blackhawks trade D Ville Pokka to the Ottawa Senators for LW Chris DiDomenico.

February 13: RUMOR — New York Rangers LW Rick Nash is rumored to be a major trade target for virtually every team within playoff reach. The Nashville Predators have been rumored to be the favorites for the former No. 1 overall draft pick.

February 13: TRADE — The Los Angeles Kings trade RW Marian Gaborik and C Nick Shore to the Ottawa Senators for D Dion Phaneuf and C Nate Thompson.