Nashville Predators vs. Washington Capitals Pick & Prediction DECEMBER 16th 2023

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Washington forward Alex Ovechkin will try to end the longest goalless drought of his 19-year NHL career when the Capitals visit the Nashville Predators on Saturday night.

Ovechkin has gone 11 straight games without a goal, keeping the 38-year-old future Hall of Famer stuck on five for the season since scoring in a 4-3 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Nov. 18.

The dry spell has stalled Ovechkin’s pursuit of Wayne Gretzky’s all-time goal scoring record of 894, leaving him 67 behind, but Capitals coach Spencer Carbery doesn’t believe Ovechkin is pressing.

“I’ve felt like he’s in a good headspace,” Carbery said before Ovechkin went scoreless in Washington’s 4-3 shootout loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday. “He feels as confident as ever. Knows that it’s only a matter of time before some of these chances start falling for him.”

After shooting below 10 percent just once in his previous 18 seasons, Ovechkin is converting just 5.32 percent of his chances this campaign.

Ovechkin has one power-play goal this season after scoring a third of his 42 goals with the man advantage last season. Those struggles have directly affected Washington’s power play, which is ranked 31st in the league (9.2 percent).

Carbery said the key for Ovechkin is to continue focusing on the process, getting to the high-danger areas and making the most of every shift and touch of the puck.

“He knows that and knows that his opportunities and shots will eventually start following,” Carbery said. “Once they start … that could snowball.”

Carbery is more concerned with getting the Capitals back on track after they let a 3-2 lead slip away with three minutes left against the Flyers, spoiling their chance at a third consecutive win.

According to the coach, the Capitals began showing cracks shortly after taking the lead at 9:05 of the third period.

“I thought we didn’t manage the game very well at all, made some uncharacteristic mistakes, started to do things that we haven’t done all year playing with the lead,” Carbery said.

The Predators are coming off their second straight overtime win, both on goals by Filip Forsberg in the opening minute of the extra session.

Forsberg scored 33 seconds into overtime on Friday to lift the Predators to a 6-5 win against the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh, N.C. Three nights earlier, he needed only 18 seconds in OT to give Nashville a 3-2 win over Philadelphia.

On Friday, Nashville trailed 4-2 and 5-3 in the second period before rallying for its third straight win.

“If we bring this type of skating effort, I think we’ll have a good chance (against Washington),” Forsberg said. “(Carolina) is obviously a very good team and so is Washington, so it will be another good test for us.”

Juuse Saros is expected to start in goal for Nashville against the Capitals after Kevin Lankinen made 26 saves in the win versus the Hurricanes.

Saros has won all five of his starts this month, posting a 1.57 goals-against average and a .953 save percentage in that span.

“He’s dialed in,” Nashville coach Andrew Brunette said. “That’s what it looks like right now.”

Saros went through a stretch in early November in which he lost five straight starts and gave up 21 goals in that span.

Saros said he struggled with the new system under Brunette and often lost track of where his teammates were on the ice.

“Used to playing a different way, seeing pucks differently,” Brunette said. “He’s starting to get used to it, and I think our defense is starting to find that balance between the two things we’re asking them to do.”

Saros is 4-3-0 in seven career starts against the Capitals with a 2.89 GAA and a .907 save percentage.

–Field Level Media

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