Caps-Preds preview

When the Caps play one of my favorite Western teams, it’s usually my favorite game of the year. I adopted the Preds as my #2 team last year and I’ve stuck with them so far and it doesn’t look like that’s changing anytime soon. I love the make-up of this team for some reason. Strong D, workhorse goalie, scoring by committee. Unfortunately, it’s only been good enough to get them into the playoffs but not much further than that. Tough first-round match-ups have a lot to do with that.

Both teams are off to pretty strong starts this season, the Caps are 3-1-0 and on a three-game win streak while the Preds sit at 3-0-0 with two of those wins coming without their starting goaltender Pekka Rinne. Stepping in was Andres Lindback and he hasn’t been bad but not the reason the Preds are undefeated. Nashville’s been getting production from guys like Marcel Goc and Cal O’Riley as they’ve been exceeding expectations early this year. This is O’Riley’s last chance with the Preds and he’s responded by tallying 3 assists with one of them setting up a game winner. They need him to be good with Matthew Lombardi out. Steve Sullivan is also playing really well as he has 4 goals to start off the year. The Preds forwards have taken advantage of favorable matchups (especially against Anaheim) to get on the board and you could say that they have one tonight against the Caps defense.

However, the Caps D might not be as suspect as some think but they will be down a man tonight with Mike Green sitting out because of a shoulder injury. Also sitting out is Tom Poti who sustained an injury earlier in the year. It’s going to be a tough task for the Caps D to replace those 25+ minutes Green usually takes up but it’s a good opportunity for John Carlson to step up. He’s off to a great start this season and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him out there in the #1 pairing. Can O’Riley and Goc keep putting up these numbers? Let’s just hope they don’t tonight.

Another question is will the Preds follow what the rest of the league is doing to stop the Caps powerplay? They have the staff to do with with Olympians Shea Weber and Ryan Suter and I have to think they will be out there every time Ovechkin touches the ice. The pairing of Shane O’Brien and Cody Franson is much more vulnerable and it’s a good chance for our 3rd line to step up. I’m not completely sure what the Caps line combos are but below are my best guesses.

Projected Lines:

Caps

Ovechkin-Backstrom-Knuble

Laich-Fleischmann-Semin

Chimera-Johansson-Fehr

Hendricks-Steckel-Gordon

Alzner-Schultz

Erskine-Carlson

Sloan-Fahey

Neuvirth

Preds

Sullivan-O’Riley-Hornqvist

Wilson-Goc-Dumont

Kostitsyn-Legwand-Ward

Tootoo-Smithson-Belak

Suter-Weber

Boulion-Klein

O’Brien-Franson

Lindback

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