It's finally time. The Carolina Hurricanes, (4-3-0) will open their RBC schedule tonight against their division rivals, the Washington Capitals, (5-3-0). Much has been made of the team's mega road trip and the lateness of the Raleigh home opener, (the Canes played one "home" game in Finland), but now is the time to turn the page and move on to the rest of their schedule.
The first game of the season at the RBC Center will not be an easy one. Everyone knows that the road to the division championship runs through the nation's capital and last year's President Trophy winners have oodles of skill and talent, as well as an over abundance of confidence to fully utilize both. While some in DC are a bit disappointed in the Capitals 5-3 start, this team does not always have to work hard or be clicking on all cylinders to rack up goals and win games. Still, the goals have not come easily this season for the Caps and they are facing some adversity as several players have been hit with the injury bug.
In their first eight games, the Capitals have scored 23 goals and allowed 21, for a 2.85 goals per game scoring average. Last season, the team averaged a league high 3.88 per game. For comparison sake, the often maligned Hurricanes, (for being offensively challenged), have scored 21 goals and allowed 21 in seven games for a 3.0 per game average, and they have yet to play a game on their home ice.
While the usual suspects, Ovechkin, Backstrom, and Semin have appeared in every game, high scoring defenseman, Mike Green, has missed three games and is questionable for tonight. He played on the powerplay for the Caps against Atlanta on Saturday night but did not play in 5-on-5 situations. He might be in a role like that again tonight, he might try to play more minutes, or he might skip the game completely. (Hopefully, more news about Green after the morning skate).
At the Washington practice on Tuesday, Katie Carrera of the Washington Post reported the lines as follows:
- Backstrom, Ovechkin, Knuble
- Perreault, Semin, Laich
- Steckel, Hendricks, Bradley
- Johansson, Gordon, King
- Schultz, Green
- Carlson, Erskine
- Sloan, Fahey
Semyon Varlamov has also been injured and former Hershey mainstay Michal Neuvirth has been carrying most of the load and will go again tonight. He'll be facing Cam Ward.
|2010 - Cam Ward||6||367||4||2||17||2.78||220||203||.923||0|
|2010 - Michal Neuvirth||8||380||5||2||16||2.53||197||181||.919||0|
The Hurricanes will most likely keep the same group which played so well for most of the game in Phoenix. While Jiri Tlusty has returned from his conditioning stint, coach Paul Maurice has indicated that he'll have to perform well in practice before he is thrown to the wolves in a game situation. Look for these lines:
- Staal, LaRose, Jokinen
- Ruutu, Skinner, Cole
- Sutter, Samsonov, Kostopoulos
- Dalpe, Dwyer, Bowman
- Gleason, Corvo
- Pitkanen, Babchuk
- McBain, Harrison
I will be attending the morning skate and will provide any updated information later.
Thanks to Hockeymom, there is a game day sheet available. If you would like to print it out and take it with you to the rink, click on the following link:
There will be pregame festivities galore, starting at 5 with a band performing on the front lawn. Also, the franchise will reveal the 2011 NHL All Star Game banner during the first period and will be handing out giveaways. For more information, check out this link.
The game will be televised in HD by FS Carolinas and will also be on 99.9 The Fan. We will have the open game thread up and running at 6:30 and I will be reporting from the arena.
Joe Corvo has a history of elevating his game against former teams and the Caps fall into that category. Will he come to the rink amped up more than usual?
Anton Babchuk has points in three consecutive games and has the team's longest current scoring streak.
Jeff Skinner will play his first career game at the RBC. When he backhanded in his first NHL goal on October 20, he became the youngest player in franchise history to score a goal.
The Canes now have the second youngest team in the league, (average age 26.4 years), with five players eligible for Calder Trophy honors: Drayson Bowman, Zac Dalpe, Jamie McBain, Justin Peters, and Skinner.
Eric Staal has 44 points in 42 career games against the Caps. Cam Ward has a lifetime 13-5-3 record in 22 starts against them.
Some Caps have also enjoyed great success against Carolina. Alex Ovechkin has scored 47 points in 35 games, Alexander Semin has 38 points in 29 games, and Nicklas Backstrom as 22 points in 20 games.
Neuvirth has only started once previously against Carolina and is 0-1-0 with a GAA of 5.0.
If you are interested in more information about the Caps, visit Japers' Rink, our SBN affiliate.