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Hurricanes vs Capitals: Preview

The Canes close out 2015 with a visit from an auld acquaintance, the Washington Capitals. ALERT: this one has an early start time tonight (6:00 pm).

Justin Faulk will play in his 300th NHL career game tonight.
Justin Faulk will play in his 300th NHL career game tonight.
James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Carolina Hurricanes vs Washington Capitals
December 31, 2015 - 6:00 pm ET
PNC Arena - Raleigh, NC
Fox Sports Carolinas - 99.9 FM - WRALSportsFan app
SB Nation Rivals - Japers' Rink

Vital Statistics

Hurricanes Capitals
Record 15-17-5 28-6-2
Points 35 58
Division Rank 7th Metro 1st Metro
Conference Rank 14th EC 1st EC
Last 10 Games 5-4-1 9-1-0
Streak Lost 1 Won 9

Goals/Game 2.35 3.14
Goals Against/Game 2.84 2.06
ES Goals For % 44.2% 59.3%
Shots/Game 29.6 30.3
Shots Against/Game 26.1 28.3
ES Corsi For % 53.3% 50.2%
Faceoff % 53.2% 49.7%
ES PDO 97.2 102.5
Power Play % (Rank) 17.5% 25.2%
Penalty Kill % (Rank) 77.9% 85.7%
PIM/Game 06:16 08:48

Goaltender #1 Ward Holtby
Record 11-11-3 24-4-1
ES Save % .906 .941
GAA 2.52 1.86

Goaltender #2 Lack Grubauer
Record 4-6-2 4-2-1
ES Save % .893 .913
GAA 3.13 2.30

*Stats from and War on Ice

Game Notes

  • Regardless of tonight's outcome, at 7-5-1 the Canes will be ensured a winning (in hockey terms) record for December after less successful records in October (5-6-0) and November (3-6-4).
  • They close out 2015 against an opponent that looks ever-so-slightly unbeatable. The Capitals are on a nine-game winning streak (win six of that streak came at the Canes expense ten days ago) and boast the best record in the NHL. They are on pace for a 132-point season (which would match a league record set by Montreal in 1976-77), and their starting goaltender, Braden Holtby, is on pace for a 54-win season in net (the current record-holder is Martin Brodeur with 48 wins). Their 58 points is 12 better than the second place team in the Eastern Conference.
  • The Caps are coming off a victory last night against the Sabres that was intensely physical. Twice they fought back to tie the game and finally took the lead for good with four unanswered goals in the third period for a 5-2 win. But the win was not without casualties. Forward Jay Beagle left the game during the second period and will miss time with surgery to repair an upper body injury. Nicklas Backstrom also left during the second period (undisclosed injury), but traveled with the team to Raleigh and is expected to play tonight. Defenseman John Carlson, having already missed two games, did not make the trip and is nursing a lower body injury. Michael Latta, who injured his arm in a fight two games ago and did not play last night, is also expected to be back in the lineup. Brooks Orpik remains out long term with a lower body injury. The Caps are expected to recall a defenseman today.
  • With Backstrom missing from the latter stages of last night's game, Evgeny Kuznetsov stepped into his role and caught fire, setting up both the game-tying and game-winning goals (and taking first star honors even though linemate Alex Ovechkin scored twice). Kuznetsov and Ovechkin are tied for the team lead with 33 points, Ovechkin leads with 20 goals, and Kuznetsov and Backstrom are tied with 22 assists.
  • Philipp Grubauer usually starts for the Caps in the second game of a back-to-back situation, and was the winning netminder when the Canes and Caps met on December 21 with a 31-save performance. However, in his post-game comments, head coach Barry Trotz did not rule out returning to Braden Holtby, who didn't appear to be overly tested in last night's game (stopping 25 of 27 shots).
  • Coming off a 3-2 loss to the Devils on Tuesday night, the Canes held a limited practice yesterday, giving several players maintenance days. Bill Peters hinted post-practice that a couple of players may require evaluation (John-Michael Liles and Elias Lindholm the most likely suspects after Liles missed part of the second period Tuesday and Lindholm missed an earlier practice). The plan is to hold a full morning skate today (9:30 am) and assess from there. The Canes will need to bear down and set the tone early with a strong start against a team that played the night before.
  • The Canes were joined at practice by Nathan Gerbe for the first time since he suffered a lower body injury on November 22. Gerbe is targeted to return to game action in mid-January and may join the team for their upcoming road trip that begins on Sunday.
  • Peters confirmed yesterday that Eddie Lack will get the start in net tonight, after his best performance of the season in the 2-1 win against the Blackhawks Sunday night where he stopped 35 of 36 shots.
  • Congratulations to Justin Faulk, who will play in his 300th career NHL game tonight. Faulk currently leads the Canes in points (30) and is tied with Jeff Skinner for the team lead in goals (14).

Projected Lineups

Hurricanes (vs. Devils 12/29)

Kris Versteeg - Eric Staal - Elias Lindholm
Joakim Nordstrom - Jordan Staal - Andrej Nestrasil
Jeff Skinner - Victor Rask - Phillip Di Giuseppe
Riley Nash - Jay McClement - Chris Terry
Brad Malone

John-Michael Liles - Justin Faulk 
Ron Hainsey - Jaccob Slavin
Noah Hanifin - Brett Pesce
Michal Jordan

Eddie Lack
Cam Ward

Injuries and scratches: James Wisniewski (IR ACL), Nathan Gerbe (ankle)

Capitals (vs. Sabres 12/30)

Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Marcus Johansson - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Justin Williams
Jason Chimera - Michael Latta - Tom Wilson
Brooks Laich - Zach Sill - Andre Burakovsky
Stanislav Galiev

Dmitry Orlov - Nate Schmidt
Karl Alzner - Matt Niskanen
Connor Carrick - Taylor Chorney

Phillipp Grubauer
Braden Holtby

Injuries and Scratches: Brooks Orpik (IR lower body), Jay Beagle (IR upper body), John Carlson (lower body)

Storm Debris

  • Canes Gameday Hub [].
  • Bill Peters post-practice media scrum 12/30 [].
  • Caps post-game notes, stats, and quotes vs. Sabres 12/30 [CapsPR] and Barry Trotz interview []
  • Michelle McMahon interviews defenseman Brett Pesce about his hockey roots [].
  • Mike Maniscalco and Chuck Kaiton give a year-end wrap up on the Canes Corner podcast [WRALSportsFan].
  • Canes look for more goals off lucky bounces [N&O].
  • Hurricanes finally finding solid goaltending in December [Today's SlapShot].
  • Canes Country's own Cory Lavalette provides an excellent year-end analysis of the Hurricanes prospects [Hockey's Future].
  • Finally, if If you're in the building tonight, your Canes ticket will get you a complimentary wristband for First Night Raleigh. Check the booth by Section 114 to pick one up and get priority access to some shows and concerts and the midnight fireworks display in downtown Raleigh [].