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Preview: Washington Capitals vs. Nashville Predators

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Once again, the Washington Capitals are hoping to rebound from a surprisingly ugly loss. Their last defeat was the product of an envigorated Carolina Hurricanes team feeding off Washington’s sudden breakdown. After a stellar first period, the Caps quickly transformed into a disorganized, sloppy team–one that would surrender three goals in less than five minutes.

The loss was troubling but deserved. There have been times this season when the Capitals’ performance wasn’t reflected in the final outcome, and vice-versa. However, this score was fairly representative of the team’s effort. Per usual, they allowed the Canes to pepper Braden Holtby with shots, several of which resulted in soft goals.

The one bright spot arrived in the form of Mike Green’s first goal this season, which came on Washington’s final power play. Carolina went shorthanded five times, with Washington capitalizing on only one of its numerous chances–and it was too little, too late.

The slumping special teams will certainly be a focus on the Caps as they take on the Nashville Predators, whose penalty kill is ranked ninth in the league. How it fares against the Capitals’ fourth-best power play will be interesting to see. After all, the Canes are ranked nineteenth in that department, yet they shut down one of the NHL’s hottest power-play teams.

How much of that success can be attributed to the Caps’ overall poor play instead of an improved penalty kill? I’d say a fair amount. The Preds will avoid taking penalties, as will the Caps, and how both teams handle penalties will say a lot about their overall play. It should be interesting to see how the bottom defensive pairing of Dmitry Orlov and Patrick Wey holds up against Nashville, a team not known for strong offensive play.

On the other hand, the Capitals should be wary, as Shea Weber is set to return tonight. Paired with Seth Jones, he’ll likely deliver a strong performance. Weber is also known for his offensive ability, which makes him more of a threat to the Caps. Granted, one player isn’t going to shut down their offense, but Weber poses a unique threat–and like David Legwand and Patric Hornqvist, could give Holtby a hard time.

The game could be a good chance for Washington to regroup and find its bearings. Then again, the same was said when the Capitals faced the Hurricanes, a team some wrote off as weak. Coming off that disappointing loss certainly creates additional pressure, but so does the knowledge that while the Caps are struggling, their once-weak Metro Division opponents are growing stronger.

Oh, and welcome back, Matt Hendricks.

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Tags: Washington Capitals

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