Pre-game primer: Reunion night in Chinatown

Pre-game primer: Reunion night in Chinatown
December 7, 2013, 5:00 pm
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Former Cap Matt Hendricks returns to D.C.

News and notes as the Capitals [14-12-2, 30 points] face off against the Nashville Predators [13-13-3, 29 points] tonight at VerizonCenter [7 p.m., CSN]:

Trending: The Caps have won two of their last three but have lost five of their last seven. The Predators have lost four in a row following a 5-1-0 run. The Predators have gone 13 straight power plays without a goal and are 1-for-18 in their past seven games.

Welcome back Hendy: C Matt Hendricks will be making his first regular season start against the Capitals since signing with the Predators as a free agent last summer. In 25 games for Nashville Hendricks is averaging 12:28 in ice time. He has one goal, a minus-3 rating and 33 penalty minutes. Judging from the comments below, he made quite an impact on the Caps in three seasons in Washignton.

Adam Oates: “If you want to talk about leadership, that would be one of the things on his resume. Really good personality. Every day upbeat. Hard-working guy. Tough. Laid it on the line every night.”

Karl Alzner: “It’s not fun to play against a guy like that because he’s a hard worker. We call Beags [Jay Beagle] a defenseman’s worst nightmare and he’s along the same lines. It won’t be fun, but it will be fun to see him. I don’t think he’s going to hit anybody any softer. It’s still going to be a Matt Hendricks full body hit.”

[RELATED: Wey preparing for 'amazing' NHL experience]

Jay Beagle: “The friendship will always be there When we’re done hockey we’ll probably end up seeing each other a lot more.”

Eric Fehr: “He brings a lot of energy. He’s a good guy in the room. He tries every game to get guys fired up before the game. He’s a good guy to keep things loose in the dressing room. He’s one of those guys that puts his body on the line every night. I don’t think fans appreciate how much that hurts sometimes and how tough it is and he does it night in and night out.”

Former Preds: Marty Erat [723] and Joel Ward [230] combined to play in 953 games for the Predators.  In parts of 11 seasons in Nashville, Erat recorded 163 goals and 318 assists. His 481 points are second on the club’s all-time list, behind David Legwand [546]. “I’m trying to just remember all the good times I had there,” Erat said. “I learned a lot from [head coach Barry Trotz]. Great coach, great person.” In three seasons in Nashville, Ward had 40 goals and 58 assists.

Weber returns: Predators defenseman Shea Weber is expected to return after missing three games with an eye injury. Goalie Pekka Rinne remains sidelined by a hip injury. Former Caps prospect Filip Forsberg is also on injured reserve with an upper body injury.

Power struggle: The Caps have gone 1-for-10 on the power play in the past three games and 5-for-37 in the past 11 games, falling from first in the NHL rankings to fourth. Teams have begun shadowing right wing Alex Ovechkin, who leads the NHL with 8 power-play goals. “We didn’t use our skill at all,” Ovechkin said. “We moved the puck, but we have to move our bodies as well. They put one guy in front of me. If I’m out of the game and their player is out of the game, the other players have to realize and make a play out there.”

PK falling: The Caps’ penalty kill is also sputtering, allowing 10 goals in the last nine games to fall from first in the NHL to 14th. Karl Alzner said one reason is that the Caps are allowing more deflections in front of the net. “We need to block a little better up top, or if it does get through, get better on the back end to clear,” he said. “We’re trying to play tough in front of the net. We’ve been outbattled a couple times. Guys don’t come as hard and don’t stay as long when they’re going to hit.”

Olympic watch: As general manager of the 2014 U.S. Olympic team, Nashville general manager David Poile will be keeping a close eye on Caps defenseman John Carlson, who has emerged as a strong candidate to make the team. Preds rookie Seth Jones also appears to be a strong candidate.

Still no Neuvy: Goaltender Michal Neuvirth will miss his third straight game with a lower body injury that was sustained when he stepped on a puck during warmups on Black Friday. He is expected to be available for Tuesday’s home game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. “It’s getting better every day,” he said. “It was pretty crazy. I have to take it as experience and be smarter and watch where I step next time.”