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.
Here is tonight’s projected roster:
Alexander Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Scratched: Stanislav Galiev
Colin Wilson - Mike Fisher - Craig Smith
MORE CAPITALS: Is Johansson ready to return for Capitals?