The Washington Capitals are storming out of the All-Star break with a purpose: reminding themselves what kind of play makes them annual Stanley Cup contenders.
The Nashville Predators, at the other end of the scale, are limping toward the finish line of the regular season, and appear to be all but throwing up the white flag of surrender.
The two squads meet Wednesday in Washington D.C.
Even with Alexander Ovechkin serving a one-game suspension for sitting out the All-Star Game in St. Louis, the Capitals stomped the Montreal Canadiens 4-2 on Monday. Ovechkin has eight goals in his past three games, including consecutive hat tricks, and returns to the lineup Wednesday.
The Capitals are a deep squad, though, with four different players scoring against the Canadiens.
"Obviously, (missing Ovechkin) is a big goal-scoring loss for us, but we stick together as a team," said Jakub Vrana, who had a goal and an assist. "We still kept creating chances, especially the fourth line."
The win in Montreal was the Capitals' fourth in a row.
The Predators have dropped three of their last four, including Monday's 5-2 loss at home to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
They've scored just one power-play goal in their last six games, and few seem to be stepping up at regular strength. Of 412 total points coming from the Predators roster this season, Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm are responsible for 103.
That's a quarter of team scoring coming from just three players - all defensemen.
"We've got to do it together," Josi said, after Monday's loss. "Every guy in that first shift go out there and try to make a difference. You've got to find a way to change the momentum, and it's got to be that next line every time. Every guy individually has to go out there and make a difference."
The Predators need more from Ryan Johansen, a fourth-overall 2010 draft pick whom the Predators picked up from Columbus in 2016. In his first full season, he had 61 points in 82 games and he's sitting on an eight-year, $64 million contract signed in 2017.
This season, though, he's minus-5 with 10 goals and 27 points.
Predators head coach John Hynes showed his displeasure Monday, holding Johansen to 14 shifts and 10 minutes, 28 seconds of ice time, the least amount among the roster.
"With players, if they want to play more, they've got to play good," Hynes explained.
He wants to see his entire roster play with more intensity.
"You've got to have pushback in games, a little bit more mental fortitude and consistency in what we're doing and consistency throughout our lineup," he said.
As their opportunities to get into the playoffs drift away, it sure won't be enough for the Predators to sit back and take a lesson from the Capitals on grit.
"We're not where we want to be, and we're not playing the way we want to," said Mikael Granlund. "We have to find it inside the locker room, and we have to be better."
--Field Level Media