Southeast Division opponents have been a curse for the Hurricanes this season, having gone a paltry 4-11-0 against their division rivals. While the Playoffs are now out of question, playing spoiler is not. Tonight is as good as any and nothing would be sweeter for Alexander Semin than to contribute to the Capitals missing the Playoffs. The Canes top line has registered 12 points (4g, 8a) against the Capitals this season. And for Carolina to be successful, the top line will need to continue that strong play. But the Canes will also need contributions from the other as well. Jordan Staal and Riley Nash are riding two-game points streaks entering tonight and will look to make it three. And Carolina's defense chipped in two goals against the Penguins, the first time a defenseman has scored since the last time they were in Washington.
Canes point-per-game players against Washington are Eric Staal with 60 points (24g, 36a) in 58 games, Semin with 4 points (1g, 3a) in 4 games and Marc-Andre Bergeron with 12 points (2g, 10a) in 12 games. Justin Peters is likely to get the start, unless another odd injury occurs to Carolina's goaltenders. Peters is 3-2-0 with a 1.73 GAA lifetime against the Caps and 2 shutouts. The key for the Canes will be to get on top early and keep the pressure coming. Avoiding penalties is a must as Washington is 1st in the league on the PP with a 25% success rate.
The Carolina lineup is ever changing as of late. The Canes 129 Man Games Lost this season and will add to that number tonight. Cam Ward (knee) is still on injured reserve, but I hear he is skating. Joni Pitkanen (heel) is done for the season and Patrick Dwyer (lower body) missed the last game. Dan Ellis, Drayson Bowman and Tim Brent all got injured before or during the Penguins game and will most likely not play in this one. Zac Dalpe was reassigned to Charlotte, Tim Wallace was recalled and Nicolas Blanchard was also brought up to play in his first NHL game. I'm not exactly sure where all the new face will fit, but I would expect them to fill out the bottom 6.
The Capitals have been on a roll as of late, winning five in a row and eight of their last ten. And no one has been hotter than Alex Ovechkin who has 6 goals in his last 3 games. After a slow start to the season that had many questioning him, Ovechkin has exploded, he is currently tied for 1st in the NHL in goals and 6th in the league in points. The Great 8 will look to continue his and his team's hot streak and solidify their place as top team in the Southeast Division. Only eight games remain for the Capitals and six of those take place in the Verizon Center.
Caps point-per-game players against Carolina are Niklas Backstrom with 38 points (11g, 27a) in 31 games and Ovechkin with 65 points (24g, 41a) in 51 games. Michal Neuvirth has started the past two games for Washington and is 4-1-1 with a 2.57 GAA in his career versus Carolina. But Braden Holtby appears to be the Caps #1 and is 3-1-0 with a 1.75 GAA in his lifetime against the Canes. The key for the Capitals will be to destroy Carolina's confidence early and stay out of the penalty box. While Washington is tops in the league on the PP, they are 29th in the NHL on the PK. Even though Carolina's PP hasn't been good, they have scored three in their last five games.
Washington has a couple of injuries they are dealing with themselves. Brooks Laich (groin) has been out since 4/4 and missed the first 28 games of the season with a groin injury. Joel Ward (leg) hasn't skated with the team yet, so his availability may be in question. Martin Erat (leg) also isn't skating with the team and is not expected to play tonight. And Tom Poti (back) has been out for a while, but could be returning to action soon, just not expected tonight. FoJapers Rink f.