Nashville Predators Return from Extended Break to Clash with Capitals

After 11 days off due to the NHL season pause, the Nashville Predators will finally return to action on Wednesday night to face the Washington Capitals, a team that haven’t seen in nearly two years.

The last meeting betweenthe Nashville Predators and Washington Capitals was January 29, 2019, a 5-4 Predators win. A wildly entertaining game if you remember as the game went back and forth, and Ryan Johansen scored the game-tying shorthanded goal in the 3rd period.

The Predators will try to avoid any rust as they’re currently carrying a seven-game winning streak, their longest since winning 10-straight in 2017-18. A stretch where they actually won 14 of 15 en route to winning the franchise’s first President’s Trophy.

Can they get it to eight in a row tonight against the Capitals? It’s going to be another very tall order that we’re about to get into. Here’s why.

More key players added to protocols for Nashville Predators

It’s like taking two steps forwards only to be knocked back five. Yes, the Predators are getting back off the covid-19 protocol list some very important players including Mikael Granlund and Ryan Johansen. Two players that are intregal to the offensive attack.

However, the Predators also announced on Monday that three more players are being added to the Covid-19 protocols; Roman Josi, Colton Sissons and Tommy Novak. Arguably more detrimental than not having Johansen and Granlund.

Josi is an MVP-caliber player in every sense of the word. Replacing him will be simply impossible for the Predators, and all they can hope for is that every player chips in a little extra to try to make up for his massive void left.

Sissons should also not be overlooked. He does a little bit of everything on the ice that’s key to how the Predators like to play. The dirty work if you will, and he’s another player that will be very difficult to replace.

This spells doom if you ask me with the of Josi and Sissons. To a smaller degree, Novak is also a tough loss as he’s been important to the depth that has been outstanding in this seven-game winning streak.

Matchup
Nashville Predators
19-10-1 (39P)
Washington Capitals
18-6-7 (43P)
Wednesday, Dec 29
6 PM CT
Bally Sports South

Granlund and Johansen will have to step up in big ways to hang on the scoreboard with a high-scoring team like the Capitals. Washington is fifth in the NHL in goals per game at 3.42. They’re also rather stingy at surrendering goals, coming in sixth at just 2.58 allowed per game.

Head Coach John Hynes is focused on keeping his players locked in on things they can control, per his comments on the team’s official website:

“To the players’ credit, I think one of the things we do talk about is just controlling what we can control. The guys did have a good break – there are certain guys that are at different points”– Predators Head Coach John Hynes

Key players that can step up

Besides Johansen and Granlund returning, it’s a big time for Tanner Jeannot to continue on his strong rookie campaign. He’ll be counted on to help replace that physical style of play that Sissons brings.

Jeannot is 5th in the NHL among rookies in points with 17, putting up 11 behind the leader and the phenom Lucas Raymond.

Let’s really shift our main focus, however, to how the defensive corps will look without Josi in the mix.

I’m a major proponent of moving Dante Fabbro up to the top pairing with Alexandre Carrier. I know that’s somewhat of a gamble considering Fabbro can be hot and cold, but I like his upside way more than I like Mattias Ekholm‘s.

Ekholm has had largely a seaosn to forget so far, and I’d much rather see him stick around on the second pairing with most likely Philippe Myers.

It’s going to be extremely difficult to protect Juuse Saros in net against the Capitals without Josi in the lineup, but I do like the thought of giving Fabbro a huge opportunity to show out.

To be fair, the Capitals are also dealing with some key defensive player in the protocols. This has the makings of being a game full of defensive mistakes and leaving the respective goaltenders in bad situations.

Good luck predicting any NHL matchup while we get through this wave of players being out due to the health and safety protocols. It should make for an interesting matchups, nonetheless.

As usual, Saros is a world class goaltender that can always steal wins. My confidence is high that it’ll take that tonight if the Predators are going to get to eight wins in a row. But hey, they’ve proven me wrong plenty of times already this season. Make it happen again.