Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson (43) looks on after a stop in play during the second period on November 30 at Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. Photo by Alex Edelman/UPI | License Photo
WASHINGTON -- Two teams heading in opposite directions collide when the Nashville Predators face the Washington Capitals in a New Year's Eve matinee Monday.
The Predators are mired in a six-game skid after blowing a third-period lead in a 4-3 loss to the Rangers on Saturday. On top of that, Nashville has struggled away from home, dropping 10 straight road contests heading into Monday's game -- the start of a stretch of seven of eight games on the road.
"We find ourselves losing a bunch in a row, and at times, that's going to happen throughout the year," Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis told the team's website. "We're going to have ups and downs; the injury bug or whatever it is. But, we're not here to make excuses. We're going to prepare the same way and work hard. We know it will turn eventually, and when it does, we'll come out a better team because of it."
The Predators have not been able to light the lamp during their skid, with only 10 goals during the slide. Viktor Arvidsson has returned from injury, but Filip Forsberg remains out and Kyle Turris is day-to-day with a lower-body issue, hampering Nashville's offensive attack.
Those offensive woes counteract the fact that the Predators have allowed the second-fewest goals in the league.
"We can't lose six in a row, not in this league and not in this division, not with the parity there is," Nashville's Nick Bonino said. "We've just got to get better."
On the other hand, the Capitals are playing as well as any team in the NHL, and are doing it with contributions from everyone. Washington won its fourth straight Saturday, upending Ottawa 3-2 thanks to the first career goals from Madison Bowey and Tyler Lewington, and solid netminding from Pheonix Copley, not exactly household names.
"It goes into the development process and just drafting the right type of players," Capitals head coach Todd Reirden told the team's website, "and developing them in Hershey and then continuing to develop them here. It's really an organizational job and a great job by our entire group."
Washington has won 16 of 19 to re-establish itself as a contender in a crowded Eastern Conference and done so while rarely using its true starting lineup. That will continue Monday as defenseman Matt Niskanen will miss a second straight game after a crash into the boards against Carolina. Fellow defenseman Brooks Orpik will be a game-time decision, after missing 27 games with a knee injury.
Braden Holtby likely will get the start in net for the Capitals, though Copley certainly has held his own. The rookie goalie is 9-1-0 with a 2.37 GAA and a .921 save percentage in his last 11 starts, giving Washington confidence no matter who is between the pipes.
"We're extremely lucky to have two guys in this room who give us a chance to win," forward Tom Wilson told reporters. "We have a pretty good team holding the fort down for us back there."