October 16 vs. Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena
Time: 8:00 pm TV: Comcast SportsNet Radio: 820AM, 1500AM and XM
Washington Capitals (3-1-0)
Nashville Predators (3-0-0)
Washington takes to the road for the second time this season when it pays a Saturday night visit to Nashville to take on the Predators.
The Caps are likely to be short a man or two when they take the ice in Music City on Saturday. Defenseman Mike Green has already been ruled out of the lineup against the Preds, and defenseman Tom Poti, Matt Bradley and Marcus Johansson are still nursing ailments that kept them on the sidelines for Wednesday’s 2-1 win over the Islanders at Verizon Center.
“He’s not playing tomorrow,” says Caps coach Bruce Boudreau of Green. “He’s fine. He’s a lot better today than he was [Thursday]. So I really do think it’s day-to-day. I just know he’s not playing [Saturday].”
As for the rest of Washington’s wounded?
“We’ll see,” shrugs Boudreau. “These are game-time decisions, I think.”
The trip to Nashville is the Capitals’ second in three weeks; Washington edged the Preds 2-1 in a Sept. 25 pre-season contest at Bridgestone Arena.
Saturday’s game against the Preds is Washington’s first this season against a Western Conference foe. Nashville also supplied the opposition in the Capitals’ pre-season finale at Verizon Center, a 3-0 Washington setback.
Having played the Preds so recently, the Caps may have a better handle on Nashville than they normally would against a Western Conference opponent.
“You get to know the players a little bit, you get to know their systems and what you can expect from them,” says Caps defenseman Tyler Sloan. “From pre-season, they played us really hard. They trap well, they’re a quick team and obviously they’re getting some good goaltending right now. It helps to get to know them a little bit but they’re a great team and it will be a tough game.”
Having played most of his career in the Western Conference, Caps left wing Jason Chimera is more familiar with the Preds than most of his teammates.
“I’ve played against them many, many times with Columbus,” says Chimera, and – especially in that building – they work hard, they play extremely hard and they’re one of those teams that try to overwhelm you in the first period, so they’re going to come out hard. But it’s nice to see them and get a little taste for what they’re all about.”
Boudreau and his staff might have more of a headstart in preparations for tomorrow’s game because of the recent pre-season match-ups, but they’ll lean more on their archives of the Barry trotz-coached Predators.
“Just on situations and systems it does,” answers Boudreau when asked if the recent meetings help him and his staff. “But as far as emotion and personnel and everything else, it’s quite a different ballgame.
“We’ve got all the notes from previous years on Barry. He’s a great coach. They play great, structured hockey and we know they’re very fast. I don’t know if it makes it any easier, but we sort of know what to expect anyway.”
Saturday’s game will mark the first time that 22-year-old Washington goaltenders Michal Neuvirth and Semyon Varlamov have both been dressed for the Capitals. Dany Sabourin started the season backing up Neuvirth while Varlamov was on injured reserve with a lower body injury.
Neuvirth has turned in four straight solid performances, doing so over a span of just six nights. Varlamov has not seen game action since he spotlessly backstopped the first half of the Caps’ Sept. 22 pre-season opener against the Blue Jackets in Columbus.
Last season, Varlamov spent more than two months on the sidelines. Prior to returning to the Caps, he made three starts with the AHL Hershey Bears, going 3-0 and allowing just six goals. When he did return to action with the Caps on Feb. 11 in Ottawa, Varlamov was rusty in a 6-5 setback to the Sens. He allowed six goals on 28 shots in that game, including three on a dozen shots on the first period and two on seven shots in the third.
After Thursday’s practice, Boudreau admitted some level of concern in sending Varlamov right back out into NHL action after nearly a month off.
“I will always worry about it,” says Boudreau, “but I have the confidence in him that he’ll be able to do it. He only has about half a game under his belt as well, and it was a pre-season game. The good thing is it was a pre-season game where we were outshot a lot in the first half and he held them to nothing and he was outstanding.
“I think that he was so prepared by coming here at the beginning of August, that this was a by-product of it. You see how hard he works out there, anyway. I’m hoping he is going to be ready.”
Given Neuvirth’s fast start and Varlamov’s recent inactivity, it’s a good bet that Neuvirth gets the nod in Nashville on Saturday.
“Whoever is playing better, for the most part,” says Boudreau when asked about how he envisions the workload in the nets the rest of the way. “If they’re playing equal, we’ll split. But somebody always comes to the fore and plays better and ends up becoming ‘the guy.’
“They’ll both get chances to play. We’re in the business of winning hockey games. It has nothing to do with anything else other than winning. They’ve played three years [pro] so it’s not a question of they both have to play to develop. They’re up here developing every day with the practices and the shooters that they have here. Whoever is playing great will play.”
Having recorded successive victories over Anaheim, Chicago and St. Louis, Nashville is 3-0 and is off to its best start since 2005-06 when it jumped out to an 8-0 start on its way to a 106-point campaign, the second best season in franchise history.
Nashville lost No. 1 netminder Pekka Rinne to a lower body in the season opener against the Ducks, but Swedish rookie Anders Lindback stepped in and closed out the Anaheim game. Then he proceeded to win his first two starts in the league, taking down the Blackhawks in Chicago and the Blues in Nashville on consecutive nights.
Rinne is said to be back at full health and ready to go for Saturday night’s game against the Capitals, but the Preds may still be missing some key pieces.
Winger Martin Erat, the team’s third-leading scorer from last season and its second-leading scorer all-time, was placed on injured reserve prior to Thursday’s game with the Blues. Center Matthew Lombardi, the team’s key off-season acquisition, missed the St. Louis game with an upper body injury.
Each of Nashville’s three game-winning goals has come on the power play, and the Preds are 4-for-13 (30.8%) with the extra man in the early going of the season.
Notes: Washington went 1-3-1 in its first five visits to Nashville, but the Caps have won each of the last two games they’ve played against the Preds in Tennessee … Varlamov started the Caps’ lone meeting with the Preds last season, an Oct. 17, 2009 game at Verizon Center. He made 24 saves in that game to lead the Capitals to a 3-2 shootout victory.