December 26 vs. Carolina Hurricanes at RBC Center
Time: 7:00 pm TV: Comcast SportsNet Radio: 820AM, 1500AM and XM
Washington Capitals (20-12-5)
Carolina Hurricanes (15-14-4)
Fresh from the NHL’s two-day holiday break, the Caps get back in action on Sunday night against the Hurricanes in Carolina. It’s the third and final visit to Raleigh for the Capitals this season.
A week ago in Ottawa, Washington finally broke the shackles of an eight-game winless streak. Now, the Caps are 2-0-1 in their last three and are in a stretch in which they’ve gained at least a point in four of their last five games (2-1-2).
Washington has 45 points tied for the top spot in the Southeast Division standings with the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Bolts have two games in hand on the Caps. Along with the Lightning and the Atlanta Thrashers, the Capitals are one of three teams to occupy the top spot in the Southeast standings in the last week.
Most recently, the Caps lost a 3-2 shootout decision to the Penguins at Verizon Center on Thursday. That setback stretched Washington’s home winless streak to six (0-3-3).
The loss to Pittsburgh also ensured Washington will suffer its first losing month since Nov. 2007, the month in which Bruce Boudreau was hired as the team’s coach. With a 3-6-3 record thus far in December and just two games remaining in the month, the Caps will finish this month with more regulation losses than wins for the first time after a franchise record of 21 consecutive months with a winning record.
The Caps are 7-8-1 on the road this season, and two of those victories have come in Raleigh. Goaltender Michal Neuvirth picked up his first career shutout against the Canes on Oct. 27 at the RBC in a 3-0 Washington win. Nearly a month later, Semyon Varlamov made 30 saves in a 3-2 Capitals triumph over the Hurricanes. The Caps have not swept the road games of a season’s series from Carolina since 1997-98.
Washington also took a 3-2 shootout decision from the Canes on Nov. 28 in the only game played at Verizon Center between the two teams thus far this season.
Nicklas Backstrom has scored four of the eight goals the Caps have scored against the Canes this season.
The Caps are 7-4 against Southeast Division foes this season, but are just .500 (4-4) against the division aside from Carolina.
The Caps have won three straight Dec. 26 games, but each of those contests was played on Verizon Center ice. Overall, the Capitals are 11-10-3 all time when playing on the day after Christmas. They’re 1-4 on the road in such games, and the only road win was an 8-2 thumping of the Maple Leafs in Toronto on Dec. 26, 1979.
Sunday’s game marks the first time the Caps and Canes have ever met on the day after Christman.
The Hurricanes are bubbling just under the Eastern Conference playoff mix, tied for ninth place and six points in back of eighth place Boston.
Carolina recently pieced together a four-game winning streak, its longest of the season. Since then, the Canes have dropped two straight.
During the winning streak, Canes goalie Cam Ward became the first Carolina goalie to win consecutive games in which he made 40 or more saves. Those victories came on Dec. 16 at Atlanta (45 saves) and Dec. 18 vs. Anaheim (43 saves).
Ward played in his 300th NHL game on Thursday in a 3-2 home ice loss to the Canadiens.
After enduring an 0-for-20 run on the power play earlier this month, the Hurricanes are 4-for-17 (23.5%) with the extra man in their last five games.
Notes: Just prior to the holiday break, former Caps and Canes winger Scott Walker was named head coach of the Guelph Storm of the OHL. Walker started the 2009-10 season with Carolina and was traded to Washington at the 2010 trade deadline. He played the final game of his NHL career with the Caps in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against Montreal last April.