Capitals-Predators Preview

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

ourselves.”

“When we work and play the way we want to play, we’re going to

have success.”

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

pace.”

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

season.

“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

teams.