Nashville is off to its best start in five seasons with a rookie
goaltender playing the majority of the minutes.
The Predators may get their toughest test of the young season
Saturday when they host NHL points leader Alex Ovechkin and the
surging Washington Capitals.
Anders Lindback, who replaced injured No. 1 netminder Pekka
Rinne in the third period of the season opener, has stopped 62 of
67 shots and is coming off wins against Central Division rivals
Chicago and St. Louis on back-to-back nights.
“Of course it is only (a little more than two games), but I am
learning as I am doing it,” Lindback said. “I’m having fun out
there. I’m trying to get as much experience as I can.”
Nashville is 3-0-0 for the first time since 2005-06 – when the
Predators won their first eight games – despite losing Rinne and
last season’s second-leading point scorer Martin Erat to injuries.
Coach Barry Trotz said Rinne is day-to-day, while Erat is eligible
to come off injured reserve Sunday.
“It’s really all about staying humble,” Trotz said after
Wednesday’s win. “We won a game against St. Louis, let’s pat
ourselves on the back for an hour and not get too full of
“When we work and play the way we want to play, we’re going to
In Erat’s absence, Steve Sullivan has scored four goals to spark
the Nashville offense. Sullivan, who has been limited in previous
years due to a back injury, didn’t score his fourth goal last
season until Nov. 14.
“He’s playing terrific right now,” Trotz said. “He’s becoming
more confident in his body and having fun, playing with a lot of
Speed hasn’t been an issue for the high-scoring Capitals, who
lead the NHL with 14 goals and have won three straight after losing
their opener. Coach Bruce Boudreau had to split his first-line
tandem of Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom for the first period of
Wednesday’s 2-1 win against the New York Islanders because he said
each player was pressing too much.
The plan worked.
Backstrom, who hadn’t recorded a point in the first three games
of the season, assisted on Ovechkin’s second-period goal then
deflected an Ovechkin shot into the net in the third period for the
game-winner. The assist netted Ovechkin his seventh point of the
“You get (Ovechkin and Backstrom) away from each other so they
can continue to play their own game,” Boudreau said. “Then, once
they feel the confidence, you put them back. Once Nicky got the
assist, I knew he was going to get more because he just never stops
at one when he gets a little bit of a roll going.”
“This is our fourth year playing together and we understand each
other a lot,” Backstrom said. “Every time we have the puck, first
of all, we see each other and try to find each other.”
Backstrom’s goal came on the power play, which has been a weak
spot for Washington (3-1-0). The Capitals have converted only 2 of
17 chances on the man advantage, though they have killed off all 15
penalties this season.
Mike Green had 10 power-play goals last season but has yet to
score through four games, and he won’t be available for this
matchup due to a shoulder injury.
The Capitals have won the last four meetings between the