The Washington Capitals and Carolina Hurricanes clash for the first time this season on Tuesday night at PNC Arena in Raleigh. This is the first of three matches against the Canes to be played in the next two weeks. Washington went 3-1-0 against Carolina last season but dropped both preseason contests to the Canes in September. The game will be televised on NBC Sports Washington at 7:00 PM.
The Capitals will go into Tuesday’s contest having won two straight, most recently a 5-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils at Capital One Arena on Saturday night. Washington’s defensemen combined for three goals and six points in the win. Christian Djoos notched a goal and an assist, John Carlson had a three-point night, and Matt Niskanen tallied a goal in the win. Andre Burakovsky was scratched after having just three shots on net in his previous four games and two goals and four points in the 10 games he has played since he’s returned from hand surgery, which kept him out for 20 games. It is unclear if he’ll be in the lineup against the Hurricanes.
Niskanen will likely be out of the lineup against the Hurricanes. After he took a maintenance day from practice on Sunday, Capitals’ head coach Barry Trotz says he’s day-to-day with an upper-body injury. Trotz did not rule him out for Tuesday’s game but it doesn’t sound like he will suit up against the Hurricanes.
Saturday’s game against the Devils started a stretch where the Capitals play 10 of the next 15 games against Metropolitan Division opponents. Washington is 6-3-1 in 10 games against Metropolitan Division opponents this season. That stretch will continue against Carolina.
The Capitals enter 2018 in first place in the division, a point ahead of New Jersey. Though, the Devils have a game in hand on the Capitals.
Tuesday’s game against the Hurricanes marks the 41st game of the season for Washington. After Tuesday’s game, they will move on to the second half of the schedule. They have a five-day break after this contest and won’t play again until they host the St. Louis Blues on Sunday afternoon. Three of the Capitals’ next five games come against the Hurricanes, who will also visit Capital One Arena a week from Thursday to start a home and home series. The Capitals will enjoy their five-day bye week after they return from Carolina next Friday.
Braden Holtby will likely start against Carolina. He stopped 25 shots in the Capitals’ 5-2 win against New Jersey on Saturday. Holtby is 22-8-0 with a .918 save percentage and a 2.63 goals against average on the season. Lifetime against the Hurricanes, he is 11-4-0 with a .947 save percentage and a 1.71 goals against average. In his most recent outing against Carolina, he made 23 saves to shutout the Canes in a 5-0 victory at Capital One Arena on February 7.
The Hurricanes are 7-3-0 in their past 10 games and sit a point behind the New York Islanders for the second wild card spot with a game in hand. Carolina was expected by many to compete for a playoff spot after having a double-digit point streak last season and adding a lot of talent during the offseason. After a slow start, Carolina has turned it around to get back into the playoff hunt. They have won seven of their past nine games and had their four-game winning streak snapped on Saturday night when they lost 3-2 at Scottrade Arena to the Blues.
Following Tuesday’s game against Washington, they play their next four games on the road. They visit Pittsburgh, Boston, Tampa Bay, and Washington before next Friday’s rematch against the Capitals at PNC Arena.
Carolina has a 10-4-3 home record and it has won seven of its past eight on home ice. Carolina has won three out of the past five home games against Washington and has gone 3-1-1 in that span.
Justin Williams will suit up for the first time against his former club. Williams signed a two-year contract worth $9 million ($4.5 million annual average value). He has seven goals, 24 points, and a -3 rating in 38 games this season. He has no points in his past four games entering play on Tuesday. Williams had 46 goals and 100 points in 162 games over two-year span with Washington. He also registered six goals and 16 points in 25 playoff games with the Capitals.
Cam Ward will start for Carolina against the Capitals. He has won each of his past six starts, posting no less than a .902 save percentage in that span. He is 10-2-1 with a .917 save percentage and a 2.53 goals against average in 14 games this season. He is 17-16-5 in 39 career outings against the Caps with a .914 save percentage and a 2.68 goals against average. His four shutouts against the Capitals are the most he’s had against a single opponent.
-The Capitals have earned points in 12 of their last 15 games against Carolina, posting an 11-3-1 record in that span
–Alex Ovechkin has 33 goals and 80 points in 69 career games against the Hurricanes, marking the third most point total he’s had against a single opponent
-The Capitals have posted a 14-4-2 record in their past 20 games, one of three teams with 14 wins since November 18 (Vegas – 15, Boston – 14).
A Look Back in Time
The last time these two teams met was back on February 7, a 5-0 Washington victory at home. The Capitals won their 10th straight home game with goals from Brett Connolly, Alex Ovechkin, Lars Eller, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Marcus Johansson. The Capitals scored three goals in the final period, including two goals in 27 seconds from Eller and Kuznetsov. The win was Washington’s fourth in a row and their second consecutive 5-0 win on home ice. Braden Holtby made 23 saves for the shutout.
By Harrison Brown