The Washington Capitals (40-21-6-86, first in Southeast, third in East) travel to the central time zone to face the Nashville Predators (33-29-4-70, fourth in Central, T-8 in West) at 8:00 p.m. EST from the Sommet Center.

The Caps enter tonight's contest losers of four straight games, all at home, to teams well beneath them in the standings. Washington finds themselves trailing New Jersey for second place in the Eastern Conference by one point. The Devils host Calgary tonight.

Despite the recent slump, the Caps still hold a 10-point lead over Florida in the Southeast Conference.

Washington plays 10 of their final 15 games away from DC and will have to play road warriors if they wish to line up the second seed in the East. The Caps are 8-2-2 in their last 12 road games, and they won't have to travel out of the Eastern time zone for any more games.

Nashville is fighting for their playoff lives, not for seeding. They sit in a three-way tie for the final playoff spot in the West with Edmonton and Dallas, all with 70 points. But the 10-13 teams are all within four points as well. Every game in the Western Conference has playoff implications.

The Predators are doing their part, having won six straight games at home and are 6-3-1 in their last ten games. And if the Capitals hope to win tonight, they better jump on top quickly, as Nashville has yet to lose a game in which they lead after the first period (15-0-1).

The Caps won the teams' previous meeting this season, a 4-3 shootout win on Oct. 28. It was one of the two games Alex Ovechkin missed this season to be with his ailing grandfather. Alexander Semin and Michael Nylander had shootout goals to lead the Caps that night.

Nashville is lead by goaltender Pekka Rinne. Rinne, 26, is enjoying a fabulous rookie campaign. In 38 games he has produced a 2.27 goals against average and .921 save percentage, with a record of 22-11-1. He is 11-3-1 since Feb. 1, but has given up 11 goals in his last three games, perhaps hitting a wall late in his rookie season.

Up front, the Preds depend on veterans J.P. Dumont (12-39-51, plus-5), Jason Arnott (27-22-49, plus-3) and Martin Erat (16-25-41. minus-10). Defenseman Shea Weber (17-23-40, plus-8) is one of the highest scoring blue-liners in the game, and a force on the power play.


WAS: PP-2nd (24.4%, 68/279); PK-23rd (79.6%, 67/328)
NSH: PP-28th (14.1%, 37/262); PK-4th (84.3%, 45/287)

WAS: G Brent Johnson (Hip-IR); RW Chris Clark (Wrist-IR); C Michael Nylander (Upper Body-Questionable)
NSH: C Radek Bonk (Upper Body-Out); C Scott Nichol (Concussion-IR)