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Behind Enemy Lines: Washington Capitals present a tall order

The Canes, on a three-game losing streak, head to DC to clash with the top team in the league. Whatever could go wrong?

NHL: Washington Capitals at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The slumping Carolina Hurricanes head into the nation’s capital to take on the white-hot Washington Capitals tonight. After a beginning to the year which made the Capitals appear to have taken a step back into the pack in the Metro Division, they have responded with an 11-0-1 tear since December 31. Massive goal scoring totals have led the charge, averaging 4.83 goals per game. The streak allowed the Caps to vault all the way into a tie for the top spot in the Metro with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Caps’ offensive outburst during this streak is unsurprisingly led by Alex Ovechkin (16 points in 12 games), Nicklas Backstrom (17 points in 12 games), Evgeny Kuznetsov (15 points in 12 games), and T.J. Oshie (16 points in 12 games) making plays. Coming off of seven consecutive games with four goals or more, can the Canes slow down the vaunted and sizzling Caps offensive attack? To do so, it will take an A+ defensive effort and the type of goaltending which Cam Ward provided for much of the first three and a half months of the season.

In net for the Caps is Braden Holtby. Holtby was in net for nine of the twelve games during this recent streak and allowed only 1.66 goals per game with a sparkling .932 goals against average. The Capitals appear to be regaining their form from last season, and will present a very difficult challenge for the Canes.

The energy that the Caps will bring into tonight’s tilt will require a fast start, as the Canes look to snap their 3-game funk. In their past nine games, the Caps have outscored opponents 14-1 in the first period, so getting the first goal will be a challenge for the Canes, but could go a long way to breaking through against the Caps.

What to Watch For

  • It will be important for the Hurricanes to get as much traffic as possible in front of Holtby, as he has consistently stopped most everything he has seen recently. Goals will be dirty tonight, not works of art.
  • Ty Rattie remains in the lineup for the Canes. Jay McClement is out, so watch the PK with Elias Lindholm as the top penalty-killer for the Canes.
  • Every time you watch the Capitals it is just a good idea to pay special attention to Ovechkin. While he may be the “enemy”, watching him come across the blue line with the puck is one of the more breath-taking and fear-inducing things for an opposing fan to see. At 31, we may only have a few more years of him in his prime, so each time you get to see him make sure to savor it. He has certainly savored playing the Hurricanes, with 77 points in 67 games against Carolina in his career.