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April 2 vs. Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Radio: 106.7 The Fan and Caps Radio Network
Washington Capitals (16-17-2)
Carolina Hurricanes (16-16-2)
Washington pays the second of its two visits to Raleigh on Tuesday to take on the Carolina Hurricanes. In the final game of their three-game road trip, the Caps will take yet another crack at climbing back to the .500 mark for the first time since the start of the season.
The Capitals are on a 6-3-1 run that has pulled them to within three points of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference standings, and Washington has also moved to within just four points of Winnipeg for the top spot in the Southeast Division standings.
The Caps and Canes head into Tuesday night’s game tied for 10th in the Eastern Conference, with Carolina having a game in hand on Washington. The Hurricanes will play 15 games in 27 days in the month of April while the Caps will play 13 in the same time span.
Tuesday’s tilt is the fourth of five meetings between the two teams this season. The Capitals and Hurricanes traded shutouts against one another at Verizon Center earlier this season, and the Caps bested the Canes 3-2 here in Raleigh on March 17. After Tuesday’s game the teams meet once more, on April 11 at Verizon Center.
Washington’s current three-game road run started with a 3-2 shootout win over the Sabres in Buffalo on Saturday. With a two-goal lead over the Flyers in Philly on Sunday, the Caps seemed poised to pull a pair of points out of that game as well. But Philly scored a power play goal with 7:12 remaining and then got the game-tying tally from Kimmo Timonen with the extra attacker on the ice and fewer than 10 seconds remaining in regulation.
“It’s just playing it out and finding a way to win,” said Caps defenseman Mike Green after Sunday’s game. “We got a little lackadaisical there at the end and sat back on our heels and they were coming full throttle. You can’t play like that. You’ve still got to push forth and make sure you take it to them instead of them coming straight at us the whole time.”
Caps goaltender Braden Holtby started both of the games of the back-to-back set over the weekend, and is a good bet to get the nod again on Tuesday in Raleigh. Michal Neuvirth was originally slated to get Sunday’s start in Philly but he wasn’t up to the task physically, so Washington recalled Philipp Grubauer from AHL Hershey. Grubauer has been returned to the Bears, and Neuvirth – who has a sparking 4-1-1 lifetime record against the Hurricanes – is once again available for duty.
Holtby was excellent in the month of March. He was 8-4-1 with two shutouts, a 2.29 GAA and a .925 save pct. last month.
At the other end of the ice, Caps captain Alex Ovechkin is on a scoring spree. With a power play on Sunday against the Flyers, Ovechkin ran his points streak to eight straight games, the Caps captain’s longest run since an eight-game streak from Oct. 27-Nov. 11, 2010.
During the life of his current streak, Ovechkin has eight goals and a dozen points.
Ovechkin had five goals and 15 points during that eight-game stretch early in the 2010-11 season.
The last time Washington’s captain had a scoring streak longer than eight games was a nine-game spree from Jan. 27-Feb. 11, 2010, at the end of the team’s franchise-record 14-game winning streak. Ovechkin had nine goals and 19 points in those nine games.
Ovechkin is now tied for fifth in the NHL with 18 goals and is tied for 17th in the league with 34 points. He leads the circuit with 12 power play goals.
Ovechkin’s linemates are also rolling along nicely. Marcus Johansson has four goals and 10 points in his last nine games and center Nicklas Backstrom has four goals and 16 points in his last 16 games. All three found the back of the net on Sunday in Philadelphia.
Carolina has battled through a spate of injuries this season, and has had to go with Justin Peters – who opened the season at AHL Charlotte – as its de facto No. 1 netminder of late because of injuries to Cam Ward and Dan Ellis.
Ellis was activated before Monday’s game in Montreal – a 4-1 Carolina loss – but Peters got the start. Peters blanked the Caps on March 12, the second time he has done so against Washington in a span of 13 months.
The Hurricanes are in the midst of their worst slump of the season, a 1-7-1 run during which they’ve been outscored by a combined total of 31-16. Carolina has not scored more than three goals in any of those games and has not netted four or more in a contest since it whitewashed the Caps 4-0 in the District on March 12. Carolina’s current tailspin followed a stretch in which the Canes won six of seven games.