Hurricanes Record: 1-1-1 (3 pts.)
Capitals Record: 1-2-0 (2 pts.)
*** PROGRAMMING NOTE *** The next several Hurricanes games are going to be broadcast on SportsSouth alternative channels instead of Fox Sports Carolinas. Please make note of the channels as they'll apply for tonight's game as well as seven out of the remaining nine games in October. The Canes have conveniently linked a channel guide for the viewing area, find your channel for the game on their Broadcast page.
It's never a dull moment when the Hurricanes face the Capitals, and tonight should be no exception as the teams meet for the first of five Metro Division match-ups this season. The Hurricanes are coming off a 5-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins Tuesday night, while the Capitals have been idle since a 2-1 loss to the Stars in Dallas on Saturday night.
Both teams have been challenged on offense, but for different reasons. For the Hurricanes, it has been the surprising absence of scoring from the line that led the NHL last season. Eric Staal tallied his first goal (and first point) Tuesday night, but Alexander Semin and Jiri Tlusty have yet to register a point and have only registered six shots on goal combined. History doesn't suggest this trend will continue long term, but the top line has to find its gear in order for the team to elevate its scoring. No doubt there will still be a few lingering boos in the Verizon Center tonight, so perhaps that will give Sasha a little extra motivation.
The Capitals have been scoring, just not consistently. Alexander Ovechkin quickly climbed to the top of the league rankings and earned NHL first star of the week honors with six points in three games, and Mikhail Grabovski had a great four-point effort in his team debut, but the team was only able to muster one goal against the Stars and is near the bottom of the league in 5-on-5 scoring. The power play is another story, the Capitals are clicking at an astonishing 50% rate with six goals scored on 12 power plays through their first three games. A key to the Hurricanes success in this game will be their ability to stay OUT of the penalty box.
In terms of line-up changes for the Canes, nothing has been announced, so the lines are still as previously reported on the depth chart for the last three games (link). Head coach Kirk Muller shuffled the lines a lot in the third period against the Penguins, but the team didn't practice yesterday and Muller isn't divulging his plans for tonight, including his starting goaltender. There will likely be no new information forthcoming until after the morning skate at
11:30 10:30 am. We'll pass along news as it becomes available.
There is a chance Tuomo Ruutu (IR - lower body) could make a return tonight; he is with the team and participated in a full team skate (in contact gear) Tuesday. If Ruutu is available, he could be activated from IR today without making any other roster moves since Tim Gleason (concussion) was placed on IR Monday. Gleason is also traveling with the team but has not resumed skating.
Capitals fans are beginning to wonder when Adam Oates may start making changes to his forward lines, but so far no changes have been forthcoming and the team has skated with their line-up intact for the last three days (lines listed here).
The Capitals are near the bottom of the league in terms of goals allowed (four per game), and goaltender Braden Holtby, who presumably will get the start tonight although not official, has posted an unremarkable .849 save percentage through three games. Defenseman Alexander Urbom, claimed off waivers last week from the New Jersey Devils, is expected to make his debut with the Capitals tonight. Defenseman Jack Hillen remains sidelined from an injury to his right leg that was suffered in the season opener.
We'll have the game thread ready to roll at 6:30 pm. See you there.