Carolina Hurricanes at Washington Capitals
March 14, 2013 - 7:00 pm EST
PNC Arena - Raleigh, NC
TV - FOX Sports Carolinas Radio - 99.9 The Fan
SB Nation Capitals Blog: Japers Rink (twitter @JapersRink)
Hurricanes Record: 15-9-1 (31 pts, 1st in Southeast Division)
Capitals Record: 10-14-1 (21 pts, 4th in Southeast Division)
Tonight the Hurricanes play host to the Washington Capitals as the second part of a home-and-home series. So far the season series between the two is tied at one game apiece with each team registering a shutout in the nation's capital. Most recently on Tuesday, the Canes played solidly up and down the lineup and blanked the Capitals by a 4-0 score. It was Justin Peters second career NHL shutout, surprisingly both against Washington. Riley Nash and Patrick Dwyer led the way for the Canes offense, each collected 2 points and a +3 rating.
Both teams enter this game needing the win and the points. Carolina is trying to maintain, if not increase, their lead in the Southeast Division over the Winnipeg Jets. The Jets are only 3 points behind the Canes and are a respectable 6-3-1 in their last 10 games. Washington on the other hand is trying to stay relevant in the division and conference. They currently sit 10 points behind the Canes and are just 1 point above Florida for last place in the league. So while both teams need the win, they are for completely different reasons.
The Hurricanes will be looking to continue what they did on Tuesday night in Washington. Getting plenty of shots on goal, winning faceoffs and limiting Washington's opportunities. The Canes offense has been pretty hot as of late, averaging 4.14 goals per game in the last seven and has gone 3-0 against Southeast Division opponents after starting the season 0-5 in the division. Five Hurricanes enter the game on two-game point streaks; Joe Corvo (1g, 1a), Tim Gleason (2a), Jay Harrison (1g, 1a), Alexander Semin (1g, 3a) and Eric Staal (3a). Eric Staal is also a point-per-game player against Washington in his career with 57 points in 56 games.
After his second shutout of his career against Washington, I suspect that Peters will get the nod in net. He is 3-1-0 with a 1.48 GAA in his career versus the Capitals. Dan Ellis has yet to earn a victory in six games against the Capitals, he is 0-2-3 with a 3.45 GAA. A key for a Canes victory will be to limit penalties and keep Washington's highly ranked Power Play off the ice. The Capitals are 3rd in the NHL at 25%, but the Hurricanes are sporting a 91.9% penalty kill rate in their last 12 games. It might all come down to who blinks first?
While it appears that some injured players are getting closer to returning, the four key injuries are still out for the game as of now. Joni Pitkanen (lower body), Chad LaRose (concussion), Tuomo Ruutu (hip) and Cam Ward (knee). I would expect the lines and pairings to look the same as Tuesday night's lineup for the Canes.
The bottom line is something is wrong in the District of Columbia and I'm not referring to the US Government. There are many fingers being pointed and many questions seeking answers. This team is 2nd to last in the NHL and is much too talented to be in that position. The lockout shorten season has seemed to really affect the Capitals learning Adam Oates' new system, but there are other issues as well. There are some key injuries, particularly on the blueline and certain players have not performed as expected.
Nicklas Backstrom has somewhat picked it up as of late, but this is guy that has averaged a point-per-game in his NHL career. His shooting percentage is at a career low and he has at times looked lost on the ice. But the person front and center for the Caps is Alex Ovechkin. To this point, his point-per-game pace is the lowest he has ever had and the goal touch seems to be off. Ovechkin has only had 7 regular season and postseason games in his 8 year career that he did not register a shot on goal and as Cory mentioned in his Game Analysis, two of those have come this year against Carolina. But again, both of these guys are super-talented and can break out at any moment. A game in Raleigh might just be what the doctor ordered for them. Backstrom has 33 points in 29 games against the Canes, Ovechkin has 60 points in 49 games, so the Canes need to keep an eye on these two.
Braden Holtby and Mike Ribeiro have probably been the brightest spots for the Caps this season. Holtby is only allowing 2.97 GAA and has recorded 3 shutouts on the season. He is 2-1-0 with a 1.33 GAA plus the shutout earlier this season in 3 appearances against the Hurricanes. But it looks like Michal Neuvirth will get the start in goal tonight for the Capitals. Neuvirth is 3-1-1 in his career versus Carolina with a 2.66 GAA and a shutout. Ribeiro is off to a fast start and is on pace for his best season so far. He has 9 goals and 19 assists in 25 games. Along with Backstrom and Ovechkin, he will need to be a focus of the Canes defense.
As I mentioned earlier, the Capitals are struggling through their own share of injuries. Brooks Laich (groin) and Mike Green (groin) have skated with the team, but its unclear when they are expected to return to the lineup. John Erskine (upper body), Tom Poti (upper body) and Jack Hillen (shoulder) have all helped deplete Washington's blueline. I would expect to see a similar lineup for the Caps tonight. But for more information on the Capitals, please check out Japers Rink.
The Canes announced yesterday that they had come to terms with defenseman Danny Biega on a three-year, entry-level deal. Biega, who just completed his 4th season at Harvard will immediately join the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL. Biega was the Hurricanes 3rd-round selection in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft and registered 28 goals, 57 assist for 85 points in 132 games at Harvard.