The Nashville Predators take motivation – their playoff positioning isn’t secure – and a strong bounce-back trend into a Thursday night matchup of NHL division leaders against the Washington Capitals, who are expected to have top goal scorer Alex Ovechkin on the ice.
Washington is priced at -110 on the moneyline with a 5.5-goal total for Thursday on the NHL odds at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.
The Predators, who need to win only one of their two remaining games to clinch the Central Division and top overall seed in the Western Conference, are coming off a disappointing road defeat against the Florida Panthers, where they lost 2-1 despite a 36-27 edge on the shot counter.
The Predators are 8-1 in their last nine games after a loss where they outshot their opponent.
The OddsShark NHL Database shows that the Predators are only 3-7 in their last 10 regular-season away games in April. That might be canceled out by the Capitals’ identical 3-7 mark in their last 10 regular-season home matchups during the month.
The Predators are 51-18-11 but only 8-7 in away games against Eastern Conference teams. Nashville, with a solid offense by committee built around the likes of left wing Viktor Arvidsson, left wing Filip Forsberg and defenseman P.K. Subban, is only 5-5 in its last 10 games, but eight were against teams batting for playoff spots.
Nashville will likely start goalie Pekka Rinne, who will be aiming to fine-tune his game after posting an .880 save percentage in his five most recent starts.
The Capitals are 48-25-7, which includes being 11-3 at home against Western Conference teams. Ovechkin did not practice on Tuesday, leading to speculation that the Washington captain could sit out to get some rest before the playoffs start next week. However, he participated in the morning skate on Thursday.
Still, summoning center Travis Boyd and defenseman Madison Bowey from their Hershey Bears minor-league team could indicate that the Capitals might be as interested in evaluating players as they are in winning the game.
Washington has been rotating goaltenders Braden Holtby (.916 save percentage in his last five games) and Philipp Grubauer (.925 in his last five) over the last few weeks. Grubauer is expected to be between the pipes for the Capitals on Thursday night.
The total has gone under in seven of the Predators’ last 10 road games against the Eastern Conference, including the five most recent. The total has also gone under in seven of the Capitals’ last 10 regular-season home games in April.
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