The Nashville Predators will face the Washington Capitals tonight at the Bridgestone Arena at 7 p.m. CST (FS-TN).
Entering the game, the Preds are sitting in a six team log jam at 19 points that make up fifth through tenth place in the tightly bunched Western Conference. Of those six teams, only the Predators do not have a winning record at home (2-2-2).
Fortunately, the Predators have found success on the road this year, going 6-3-1 which includes the recently completed 3-1-1 trip against Western Conference contenders.
It is a rare slow start at home for the Predators who have averaged 55.5 points a year since the lockout on home ice in the Music City.
The downturn at home started during last season's second round playoff series with Vancouver when the Preds won twice on the road but lost all three home contests, including the season ending game six.
The Predators played the Capitals twice in the preseason this year, winning both games. The Preds beat Washington 2-0 in the Baltimore Hockey Classic on September 20 and then then bested the Caps 4-1 at home on September 28.
The Predators have not had the same success in the regular season over the years, compiling a 5-5-5 all-time record against Washington. Last season, the Caps beat the Preds 3-2 in overtime on October 16, 2010 in Nashville. The Predators' last win against the Caps was on December 7, 2005 in Washington and have not won on home ice since before the lock out.
Both teams are coming off losses on Saturday night, with the Habs beating the Preds 2-1 in overtime in Nashville and the Caps losing to the Devils 3-2 in a shootout in DC.
Pekka Rinne has never faced the Capitals but should get his first start against them tonight. Ex-Predator Tomas Vokoun (8-2-0, 2.39, .921) will probably start tonight but Michal Neuvirth (2-2-1, 3.14, .891) could also get the nod.
On the offensive end of the ice, Nicklas Backstrom (5g, 15a) and Alexander Ovechkin (7g, 7a) have paced the Caps, while Craig Smith (7g, 7a) and Patric Hornqvist (7g, 4a) have had the hot hands for the Predators.
The game will also mark ex-Pred Joel Ward's first regular season game in Nashville since he was signed as a free agent by the Capitals over the summer.
The Caps come into tonight's game without defenseman Mike Green who missed an extended period and then was re-injured on Friday in New Jersey. Forward Brooks Laich was forced to play the entire game on defense for the first time in his career on Saturday, but the Caps expect that Roman Hamrlik will return tonight as the sixth D-man sending Laich back to his regular slot.
David Legwand (5g, 9a) remains sidelined for the Predators and it was announced on Monday that Teemu Laakso was placed on injured reserve retroactive to last Wednesday so the Predators only have 21 healthy players.
After tonight's game, the Predators will continue the homestand on Thursday when they host the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Go here for POTG discount tickets and use the offer code preds for the game against the Capitals as well as all remaining games.
Previews from Nashville come from Ryan Porth, Amanda DiPaolo, Fang Finger, The Tennessean, and Predators.com.
For coverage from the nations's capital, check out Washington Times, Washington Post, Japers Rink, On Frozen Blog, Rock the Red, Capitals Outsider, Russian Machine Never Breaks, and the Capitals Examiner.
Go here for the game notes from NHL Media Services.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOntheGlass