January 15 vs. Carolina Hurricanes at Verizon Center
Time: 5:00 pm TV: Comcast SportsNet Radio: 1500AM, 820AM, XM and Caps Radio Network Pre-Game: Pre-Cap Podcast at 12 p.m., Two-Man Advantage at 3 p.m., John Walton’s one-on-one audio with Dale Hunter at 3 p.m., all on washingtoncaps.com.
Carolina Hurricanes (16-23-7)
Washington Capitals (23-17-2)
Washington starts the back half of its four-game homestand on Sunday when the Carolina Hurricanes come to town. The Canes last visited Verizon on Oct. 8 in the Capitals’ season opener. Washington earned a 4-3 overtime win in that contest.
The two teams also met on Nov. 4 in Carolina, with Washington winning that one by a 5-1 score.
Michal Neuvirth started and won each of the first two games between the two teams this season, but Tomas Vokoun gets the call in goal for Washington on Sunday. The game against Carolina will be Vokoun’s ninth start on succession; he is 6-2 with a 1.90 GAA and a .938 save pct. in his last nine games (eight starts).
Lifetime against Carolina, Vokoun is 12-10-1 with two shutouts, a 2.81 GAA and a .915 save pct.
The Caps have won six straight games on home ice, and Vokoun has been between the pipes for each of the last four. Overall this season in his 16 starts at Verizon Center, Vokoun is 13-3 with two shutouts, a 2.09 GAA and a .933 save pct.
Vokoun blanked the Penguins 1-0 on Wednesday and defeated the Lightning 4-3 on Friday to start off the Capitals’ current homestand.
Washington has won six straight games on home ice. The Caps have scored the game’s first goal in each of those games, they’ve scored in the first period of each of those games, and they’ve never trailed in any of those contests. The last time Washington trailed on home ice was in a 5-1 loss to Philadelphia on Dec. 13.
The Caps have played with the lead frequently at home of late, but they’ve managed to do so despite not getting a lot of shots on net. Washington has had 30 or fewer shots on goal in each of its last 13 games, but owns an 8-4-1 record over that span.
The Caps went nearly 18 minutes without getting a shot on goal in Friday's win over the Lightning, and they had just 13 shots on net in the game's first 40 minutes. Only 13 of their 20 shots on goal for the game came at even-strength.
“You’d like to,” says Caps right wing Mike Knuble, “because you’d have better potential to score, instead of being in your own end and defending, giving up the shots and hoping your goalie can make the save.
“You bring up [Friday] night, toward the end of the second period all of a sudden I looked up at the shots and they were 23-16 or something like that, [we were] down. It was a little wake-up for the players as to how this game was going; you spend a lot more time in your end than you should be. You’re trying to play more down in their end, and obviously the only way you’re going to score is to get shots on goal.
“Getting more shots, you’re just playing the odds. It’s going to help. It can’t hurt to get more shots on goal. That’s something you’d want. I think as players, we’re not happy in the low twenties in shots [on goal]; that’s just not enough. Alex [Ovechkin] probably has five or six of them, and we need a little bit more from everybody else.
Ovechkin and Troy Brouwer – who netted the first hat trick of his NHL career in Friday’s win over the Lightning – have accounted for eight of Washington’s last nine power play goals. Aside from those two, only defenseman Dennis Wideman has supplemented the Caps’ extra-man attack since a 4-2 win over Toronto on Dec. 9. Ovechkin has five, Brouwer three and Wideman one of the Capitals’ nine power play goals since that win over Toronto more than a month ago.
The Capitals have clicked at a 33.3% rate on the power play in their last 11 games, but they’ve had just 27 chances with the extra man (9-for-27) during that stretch.
Carolina fired head coach Paul Maurice and replaced him with Kirk Muller on Nov. 28, hours after Washington replaced Bruce Boudreau behind its bench with Dale Hunter. The Hurricanes were 8-13-4 at the time of the change; they’re 8-10-3 under Muller’s direction. The Canes are 8-6-3 in their last 17 games.
The Hurricanes are coming to town on the heels of a 4-2 home ice win over the Bruins on Saturday night. The Canes rebounded from a 2-1 third-period deficit to score three times in a span of just five minutes to defeat Boston for the third time this season. Carolina won the game without benefit of a power play opportunity, the first time in its franchise history that it went through a home game without getting a chance to go on the power play.
Carolina is the only Eastern Conference club with fewer road points than Washington; the Hurricanes are 5-12-4 in their 21 road games to date.
The Canes ravaged the Lightning on Thursday night in their most recent road victory, a 5-2 triumph in Tampa Bay. Carolina struck for four first-period goals in that game. Three different players had three points in the first frame for the Canes: Jiri Tlusty had two goals and an assist, Tuomo Ruutu had a goal and two assists and Eric Staal had three helpers.
According to Elias Sports Bureau, that was the first time three Carolina/Hartford players had at least three first-period points in the same game since Dec. 9, 1989 when Ray Ferraro (five points) Kevin Dineen (four points) and Mikael Anderson (four points) did so in a 7-3 Hartford win over the Devils in Hartford.
With wins in each of their last two games, the Canes have a chance for their first three-game winning streak since Oct. 12-18. Two of the wins in that three-game run came at Boston’s expense.
Carolina forward Jeff Skinner may be ready to return to action after being sidelined with a concussion for more than a month. Skinner is one of four Hurricanes who missed Saturday night’s home ice contest against Boston because of concussion or head injuries. Carolina is also playing without blueliners Joni Pitkanen and Jaroslav Spacek.
The Hurricanes have had just 18 power play chances in their last eight games, and just one extra-man opportunity in their last two contests. The Canes are 7-for-18 (38.9%) with the extra man in those last eight contests.