SB Nation Rival Blog: Japers' Rink
Hurricanes Record: 34-34-11 | 79 pts | 7th Metro | 13th EC
Capitals Record: 36-30-13 | 85 pts | 5th Metro | 9th EC
For the first time in a long time, the Hurricanes and Capitals wrap up their season series with nothing on the line except personal pride. The Canes were eliminated from playoff contention Tuesday night after their 4-1 loss to the New York Rangers. Despite an impressive 4-1 win against the Blues in St. Louis Tuesday night, the Caps met their fate last night when both Columbus and Detroit secured the final two Eastern Conference wild card spots.
The teams have faced each other four times so far this season, with the Canes holding the 3-1 edge, and with all the wins in favor of the visiting team. Their last match-up was on January 2nd in DC, a 4-3 overtime win featuring a hat trick by Jeff Skinner, who has eight points this season against the Caps. Nicklas Backstrom scored two goals in Tuesday night's win against the Blues, and Alex Ovechkin tallied a goal and two assists to cement his fifth career 50-goal season (the eleventh NHL player in history to do so).
Ovechkin and Backstrom are both career point-per-game players versus the Canes. John Carlson has points in his last two games.
Mike Green, Patrick Wey, and Jack Hillen (all upper body) are not on the trip. Brooks Laich remains out recovering from a groin injury.
Jaroslav Halak has been the unwelcome recipient of some press over assertions he felt uncomfortable taking the start in net against his former team Tuesday. Braden Holtby started instead and had a fine showing. It's undetermined how this might affect tonight's starter, though with back-to-back situations (both the Caps and Canes play tomorrow), presumably the two netminders will split duties.
The Caps had a day off yesterday with their travel to Raleigh and will hold a morning skate today at 11:30 am, so stay tuned for updates at that time.
The Hurricanes won't hold a morning skate, although Kirk Muller may address the media just prior to the Caps taking the ice.
There were no significant changes at yesterday's practice other than some shuffling to account for absent players. Nathan Gerbe (maintenance day) and Ryan Murphy (upper body) did not practice but are possible for tonight. Jiri Tlusty is probable to return and if so will line up with Eric Staal and Alexander Semin. Andrei Loktionov skated in Gerbe's spot on Jordan Staal's line with Patrick Dwyer.
Anton Khudobin, undefeated against the Caps in three starts this season, will get the start in net. Cam Ward missed practice yesterday (upper body) but is possible for tonight to back up Khudobin.
After yesterday's game, the players and head coach Kirk Muller re-emphasized their intentions to stay the course despite being eliminated from the playoffs, continuing to compete and play the right way (recap and audio).
It's hat night in the arena (for the first 15,000 in the building) and there's a South Plaza party before the game and special discounts at The Eye. Details are available on the Canes Promotions page.
We'll have the game thread ready to roll by 6:30 pm. See you there.