The Preds are back on the ice tonight.
Former Preds head coach Peter Laviolette now helms the Caps, whose 43 points have them tied for the lead in the Metropolitan Division with the Carolina Hurricanes and trail only the Tampa Bay Lightning leaguewide. Points-percentage-wise things aren’t quite as starkly in the Caps’ favor, as a hefty chunk of OT losses have contributed to that record, but the Caps are still a good team that’s been playing well and getting results.
The players and coaches the Predators had had in COVID-19 protocol before the break are back and available tonight—as is Matt Duchene, who was out with an injury—but Roman Josi, Colton Sissons, and Tommy Novak are now in protocol. Exactly who we’ll see on defense and filling out the forward lines remains uncertain. Juuse Saros will get the start.
Saros will have his work cut out for him, as Alex Ovechkin has gleefully continued to do Alex Ovechkin things. He leads the team with 47 points and 22 goals (in 31 games); the rest of the Caps’ scoring has been by committee. Evgeny Kuznetsov is second in both categories with nine goals and 21 assists; he shares that nine-goal mark with Tom Wilson, who hasn’t played due to injury since December 10th but may be returning tonight.
Several other key Capitals have also missed time; T.J. Oshie has only played 14 games (and was in protocol before the break), while Nicklas Backstrom has only played one (though he is expected to return tonight). Even with these anticipated returns—Wilson, Backstrom, Kuznetsov (protocol)—the Capitals are shorthanded tonight and will be relying on some help from the Hershey Bears of the AHL.
The Caps’ goalies have had just-okay seasons, with both Vitek Vanacek and Ilya Samsonov posting a .910 over sixteen games. Their penalty kill has been very effective, while their power play, shockingly—especially shocking given Ovechkin’s scoring tear—has overall not. One wonders if Laviolette might be responsible for that drop-off.
How to Watch
The game starts at 6 PM Central and will air on Bally Sports South and 102.5 The Game.