On Thursday night, the Nashville Predators traveled to Amalie Arena to take on the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning are the current leaders in the NHL in HROW (Home Regulation + OT Wins) with 29, so going onto their home ice, and coming out with a win, was going to be a challenge.

Nashville came out with a bang, scoring two goals in their first three shots. Mike Ribeiro (14) scored first at 3:28 and, less 40 seconds later, Paul Gaustad (4) beat Ben Bishop. The Lightning was able to get a goal by Vladislav Namestnikov (7) at the end of the first.

The second period was filled with penalties, on both sides, but neither side was able to take advantage of the extra attacker. At 6:47, Mike Santorelli (12) scored his first goal since being traded to Nashville. Brian Boyle was able to cut into the Preds lead to 3-2 at 13:19.

Both goalies stood their ground during the 3rd period, and the Preds would get the two points, adding to their point total. Now, the Preds are currently at 100 points, 1 point out of 1st place in the NHL, and an overall record of 46-21-8.

The Preds will travel to Verizon Center to take on former Preds coach, Barry Trotz, and the Washington Capitals.

In their last matchup, the Caps allowed a two goal lead slip away from the New Jersey Devils, but was able to win in OT by a goal from Evgeny Kuznetsov (10) at 1:13.

The Capitals are being led by none other than Alex Ovechkin. He currently has 47 goals and 26 assists for a total of 73 points. This places Ovechkin ranked 1st in goals and 4th in the NHL for points. His teammate, Nicklas Backstrom, is ranked fifth in the NHL with 72 points (18 goals, 54 assists). His 54 assists ranks him 1st in the NHL.

Keys to Watch

Bring on the Playoffs

Since the Buffalo game last Saturday, the perception is that this team has gotten their act together. Nashville has won three in a row, totaling 9 goals and only giving up 4. With wins against Buffalo, Montreal, and Tampa Bay, this Preds team looks like they have gotten back in early season form. With James Neal, Matt Cullen, and Eric Nystrom missing time, young players have been able to show their abilities against top competition. Viktor Arvidsson and Kevin Fiala have filled in well in the absence of veteran leadership.


Offensive Firepower

This Capitals’ team is one of the best offensive teams in the NHL. In points, they have two of the top five players (Ovechkin, Backstrom), the #1 goal scorer (Ovechkin), #1 assists leader (Backstrom), #1 PP (24.8), #1 PPG leader (Ovechkin, 21), and #1 in GWGs (Ovechkin, 11). Nashville will need to clamp down the defense on this offensively-dominate team, but specifically will need to contain Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom.


Washington’s Kryptonite!

As I prepare for this late morning/early afternoon matinee, a glaring statistic jumped out in the research. The winning percentage of the Capitals when they score 1st against their opponent is astounding. They are 1st in the NHL, with a winning percentage of .846. This team is the best in the NHL when they score 1st. This team’s kryptonite is when their opponent scores 1st on them. This team has lost, on average, four out of five games this season when the opponent scores on them 1st. This ranks them 26th in the NHL. The Preds will have a HUGE advantage against this team if they can get on the board first. If Washington scores first, it will be an uphill battle.

The Nashville Predators have been playing well recently. The Preds are pushing toward the playoffs and look to take a high seed in the Western Conference playoffs. FOX Sports Tennessee will be carrying the game, which has an 11:30 CDT puck drop. Also, 102.5 The Game will have your radio coverage!

**Another reminder, tickets go on sale this weekend for the playoffs! Today, the 28th at area Kroger stores, tomorrow the 29th at the Bridgestone Arena Box Office and Monday the 30th online to those in the Predators TV viewing area.**