By Glynn Cosker
Managing Editor, DCpuckDrop
The Washington Capitals (48-25-7) may do a little experimenting in the regular season’s last two games – starting tonight when the team takes on the Nashville Predators (51-18-11) at Capital One Arena. The Caps last met the Predators on Nov. 14 in a lopsided 6-3 win for Nashville. That was then; this is now.
Last season’s losing Stanley Cup finalists are looking to make a little history tonight by beating the Caps to secure the Central Division and the Western Conference; they can even clinch the Presidents’ Trophy if other results go their way. Additionally, a win by the Preds would give them a franchise-best 52 victories in a single season. So, there is plenty on the line for Nashville. Meanwhile, Washington is already locked in as the Metropolitan Division champs and has no way of eclipsing either Boston or Tampa Bay for the top spot in the East. It’s a great opportunity, therefore, for Caps Head Coach Barry Trotz to switch things up a little going into the playoffs.
Travis Boyd Back For the Capitals
The Capitals come into tonight’s matchup enjoying a two-game winning streak and with an 8-2-0 record for their last 10 outings; they’re 12-4-0 since the beginning of March – and that is thanks to a much more confident team that has produced some consistent performances. It’s a calculated risk for Trotz to change anything, but the signals are that he’ll do just that. Madison Bowey and Travis Boyd were both recalled from the AHL, and the Caps inked prospect Brian Pinho to a deal – making the Providence College star eligible for a jersey going forward. It’s unlikely that Pinho will start tonight, but Boyd is expected to take the ice as center on the fourth line.
Alex Ovechkin Expected to Start
Alex Ovechkin, who went heavily into the boards during Monday’s game against St. Louis, is expected to start tonight, despite his status of ‘day-to-day’ since that Blues contest; the Capitals’ captain took off one day for maintenance and is four goals away from another 50-goal season.
“He stayed off, and that’s why lineup-wise, we weren’t sure what we were going to do until today once he feels 100 percent. So we’re putting him in,” said Trotz on Thursday.
Ovechkin leads the Capitals with 84 points, with linemate Evgeny Kuznetsov right behind him with 79 points (25 goals, 54 assists). Rounding out the Caps’ top line is Tom Wilson – currently enjoying his best season as a Capital with 34 points and 187 penalty minutes. After a mid-season slump, T. J. Oshie has re-invented himself – and gotten a new stick – to record 10 points in as many games.
Caps’ Goalie Rotation Continues – Grubauer or Holtby
Between the pipes for the Caps: it’s anyone’s guess. We’re on record as stating that Philipp Grubauer is currently the #1 goalie because of his form of late, but Braden Holtby impressed on Monday against St. Louis. Whoever starts tonight won’t start the Capitals’ final regular season game against the New Jersey Devils on Saturday.
Our prediction tonight: 3-2 win for the Capitals.
Capitals Projected Lineup:
Alex Ovechkin — Evgeny Kuznetsov — Tom Wilson
Andre Burakovsky — Nicklas Backstrom — T.J. Oshie
Brett Connolly — Lars Eller — Devante Smith-Pelly
Chandler Stephenson — Travis Boyd — Alex Chiasson
Dmitry Orlov — Matt Niskanen
Michal Kempny — John Carlson
Brooks Orpik — Christian Djoos
Scratched: Jakub Jerabek, Shane Gersich, Madison Bowey, Brian Pinho, Jakub Vrana
Injured: Jay Beagle (upper body)