(SportsNetwork.com) - The surging Nashville Predators hope to stay on the right track when they visit Barry Trotz's Washington Capitals for a matinee clash on Saturday.
The Predators cruised through most of the season before going through a difficult 4-9-2 stretch from Feb. 19-March 17. Nashville has since won three in a row, marking the club's longest run since a season-best six-game stretch from Feb. 7-17.
The recent surge has Nashville at 100 points on the season and on the verge of officially clinching a playoff berth. The club has a one-point lead over St. Louis for the Central Division lead, putting the Preds a point behind Anaheim for the top seed in the Western Conference. The Blues host Columbus on Saturday, while the Ducks are set to visit the New York Islanders.
The last time the Predators made it to the postseason was in 2012, when Trotz was still the club's head coach. He was let go following last season and replaced by Peter Laviolette, who is only the second bench boss in franchise history.
Trotz has the Capitals in the first of two wild card spots in the East, where they sit five points ahead of the Ottawa Senators. Washington also is just one point behind Pittsburgh for the third playoff seed from the Metropolitan Division. The Penguins host Arizona on Saturday.
Nashville welcomed its old coach back to the Music City on Jan. 16 when it notched a 4-3 win over the visiting Capitals. The Preds have won two straight and three of four in this matchup, but have dropped four straight and seven of eight in D.C.
Laviolette's club posted its most recent victory Thursday in Tampa, recording a 3-2 win over the Lightning. Nashville jumped out to a 2-0 lead with a pair of goals in quick succession early in the first period and Tampa Bay never was able to even things after that.
Mike Ribeiro opened the scoring at the 3:38 mark and Paul Gaustad made it a two-goal cushion just 40 seconds later. Michael Santorelli's goal early in the second period proved to be the game-winner for Nashville, which also received 28 saves from Pekka Rinne.
"We know we can be better, but it was a good road win," Laviolette said.
The victory was the 40th of the season for Rinne and leaves him three wins shy of his personal best set in 2011-12.
Nashville is capping a two-game swing today before opening a three-game homestand with Sunday's test against Calgary. The Preds are 18-14-6 as the guest this season compared to a 28-7-2 mark at home.
Predators forward James Neal is questionable for this afternoon after sitting out the last six straight game with an upper-body injury.
The Caps won for the fourth time in five games with Thursday's overtime victory against New Jersey. The 3-2 decision came after Matt Niskanen scored just 73 seconds into the extra session.
Karl Alzner and Niskanen each finished with a goal and an assist, Eric Fehr also lit the lamp and Braden Holtby made 29 saves for the Capitals.
"We were on our heels for the majority of the third period," said Niskanen. "Wins seem a lot bigger this time of year, especially in the position that we're in."
Washington is 21-11-5 at home this season and also is playing on consecutive days this weekend. The Caps will visit the New York Rangers on Saturday afternoon.