The Washington Capitals will make their first visit to the RBC Center this season tonight, as the Hurricanes hope to continue their strong November push. This will be the second of six meeting this season, with the Caps taking a 4-3 Overtime decision back on Oct. 8 in D.C. The Canes hadn't fared too well against Southeast Division opponents until defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning last Tuesday, 4-2. Tonight, they look to make it two wins in a row against divisional opponents.
Washington (8-2-0) finds itself in the familiar position of first place in the division with 16 points after playing only 10 games. They are coming off of a dramatic come-from-behind victory against the Anaheim Ducks in which they fell behind 3-0 early before rallying to win 5-4 in overtime. The Hurricanes are in the middle of the tightly-contested Southeast with 13 points. They leapfrogged the Lightning after beating them to land in third place in the division.
Jussi Jokinen will be sidelined with the lower-body injury that took him out of the Lightning game, with Drayson Bowman being called up to take his place in the lineup. Lines are expected to be shuffled for the game with Anthony Stewart being given a chance to play on the second line with Jeff Skinner and Tuomo Ruutu. Full lines are listed after the jump.
The defensive pairings will probably look similar to the usual lineup.
Cam Ward will probably be expected to get the nod for tonight's game, as he has had plenty of rest after fending off the Lightning. Also, Brian Boucher's last outing didn't turn out so stellar.
Washington's lines should look something like this:
There has been a lot of talk lately about the struggles of Carolina captain Eric Staal. Hopefully he can find the good mojo that he flashed against the Caps in D.C. as he scored two powerplay goals and added an assist in that matchup. Chip Alexander had an interesting write-up about the issue in Canes Now. Staal might also be sparked by the fact that his line-mates have been sizzling lately. Both Chad LaRose (2G, 2A) and Jiri Tlusty (1G,2A) have three-game point streaks on the line.
The Canes also hope to continue the trend of "home cooking" tonight. Carolina is 3-1-1 at home so far and they play 9 of the next 14 games at the RBC Center. The one loss came during their first game of the season, meaning the Canes have gained a point in the past 4 home games.
Special Teams Trends
The Hurricanes are a mediocre 14.3% on the power play so far this season, good for 22nd in the NHL. Washington, on the other hand, is a scorching 23.7% on the power play (which is to be expected with the likes of Alexander Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, Mike Green, etc). The penalty kill numbers are more in favor of the Hurricanes, however. The Canes are a respectable 81.6% on the PK so far. However, the penalty-killing squad has fended off 29 of the past 33 chances, good for a 87.9% rate (including killing off a two-minute 5-on-3 power play against the Bolts). Washington carries a struggling unit into tonight's game as they have only been able to kill off 75% of opponent's power plays.
Both of these teams are allowing over 30 shots per game this season. Washington allows 30.6 shots per game and Carolina allows 32.4. A huge task over the offseason was to allow less shots against Cam Ward (and Brian Boucher) this season and it seems that that message is a little late getting to the team. On the flip side, Carolina takes an average of 29.8 shots per game and Washington fires 31.6 shots per game. With these statistics, it's easy to believe that there will be some pucks fired at both goalies tonight.
The game starts at 7pm, and we'll have our Canes Country open gamethread posted by 6:30.
The game will be broadcast on television by FS Carolinas and on the radio or streaming at 99.9 the Fan.