The Nashville Predators have been the victim of one breakdown and barely avoided another.
Tonight at 6 they make their first venture into the Eastern Conference when they visit the Washington Capitals. The Predators have to realize they have the abilities to stop a changing tide. With superstar Alexander Ovechkin absent from the lineup, the Capitals will offer a different look on offense. Ovechkin has returned to Russia to be with his grandfather, who is gravely ill.
"One of the things we've got to learn is that we blew a game against Calgary and we didn't find the way to stop the tide," said Predators coach Barry Trotz. "Against Los Angeles Saturday night we did. It was a little closer at the end than we wanted it to be, but we got a better result.
"Every guy in the room knows it should have ended at 5-2 instead of 5-4 against Los Angeles. If we are going to be successful in this league we can't give up as many goals as we are. But we are moving forward."
The Predators have struggled to maintain leads, but have been scoring goals. Trotz is concerned with the breakdowns in coverage on defense and unforced errors that have often been costly.
"We have identified how we have to play," said Trotz. "Each player's involvement is important. They all have to contribute and they all don't have to contribute with goals and assists.
"There was a lot talk about not being able to replace the goals by Alexander Radulov. That is not an issue at all. We are getting goals by committee. We are going to get more goals out of our third and fourth lines even though I consider them both threes."
This is the first of two games with the Capitals this season. The Capitals are one of three Eastern Conference teams designated as a "wild card" team for the Predators.
The Predators are back home Thursday night against the Edmonton Oilers at 7 at the Sommet Center.
Hornqvist continues to progress: Rookie right wing Patric Hornqvist was credited with his first two assists of the season against Los Angeles, which was also his first multi-point game.
"Hornqvist was one of our better players against Los Angeles, no doubt about it," said Trotz. "Joel Ward was really good for us too."
Along comes Jones: Rookie right wing Ryan Jones has four points (two goals, two assists) in his last five games.
"The level of competition has stepped up and I have had to step up my own game," said Jones. "I wanted to come in here and make an impression. The cards have played out right and I have ended up in the lineup."
The offensive production of Hornqvist and Jones is being counted on heavily by the Predators.
"Jones and Hornqvist are going to produce at a fairly decent level as the season goes on," said Trotz.
Who's hot: Right wing Martin Erat leads the team in goals with four and has three in his last three games. ...Right wing J.P. Dumont (two goals, seven assists) and defenseman Shea Weber (three goals, six assists) are both tied for the team lead in points with nine. ...Dumont has points in four straight games (two goals, two assists) and has points in seven of eight games. ...Right wing Jordin Tootoo has back-to-back goals (Calgary and Los Angeles) for the first time in his career during the regular season. ...Center Scott Nichol has points (one goal, two assists) in three of the last four games.