The Carolina Hurricanes, (35-30-10) hope to start a new winning streak tonight as they visit the nation's capital for a match with the Washington Capitals, (44-22-10) at the Verizon Center. The Canes should be more desperate than ever for a win because they are running out of time to catch the eighth place Buffalo Sabres, a team which is five points ahead of them in the playoff race with just seven games to go.
But one problem the Hurricanes face is that, in five attempts, they have yet to defeat the Caps this season, (0-4-1). The last time they were swept by this team in a season series was in 1997-98 when they dropped the series, 0-4.
The last time these two clubs met, Carolina carried much of the play and outshot Washington 41-26, but they still lost 2-1.
The good news for the Canes is that this is the front end of a back-to-back and they have had much better success in the first games, (11-3-4), then the second, (6-11-1) in these situations.
Joni Pitkanen, who missed Saturday night's game because of an illness, practiced yesterday and will be back on the ice tonight. The report from the morning skate indicates that Jay Harrison has an upper body injury and will sit tonight.
Troy Bodie will be the healthy extra.
Look for the following lines:
- Stillman, Staal, Cole
- Skinner, Ruutu, Jokinen
- LaRose, Sutter, Bowman
- Tlusty, Dwyer, Samson
- Gleason, McBain
- Pitkanen, Corvo
- Joslin, Allen
Again, the defensive pairings will most likely be mixed and matched.
Cam Ward will start and play in his 68th game of the season, just one shy of his career high, 69.
Eric Staal, Erik Cole, and Cory Stillman each have points in four straight games. Chad LaRose will play in his 400th career NHL game tonight.
The Capitals are coming off a six game road trip, (4-2) and are hoping for the return of their star player, Alex Ovechkin, who has missed three games due to a nagging injury. While Ovechkin says he's "ready to go", he still might sit out of tonight's game as a precaution. Jason Arnott is also close to returning. I have seen some Twitter reports that they both will play, although I'm not sure those reports are official.
There is no official word who will start in goal although it will probably be Semyon Varlamov.
Mike Green, and Tom Poti will remain out.
The Caps are shooting for the best March in their franchise history, (11-2-1). Currently they are 11-2-0, with two games to play. In contrast, the Canes are 6-5-1 in March and 4-5-1 in their last 10 games.
The Hurricanes should not wait until the third period to do their scoring because the Capitals have allowed just 51 goals in that period, tied for the lowest amount in the league this season. The Canes have allowed 81 goals in the third period.
Japers' Rink will have more inside scoop about the Caps.
The game will be broadcast by FS Carolinas starting at 7 and the open game thread will be ready to go here at 6:30.