Photo: USA Today
The Washington Capitals host the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday night to begin a home-and-home series with those Bunch of Jerks. The two teams will meet again on Thursday night at PNC Arena in Raleigh (7 PM ET, can be seen on NBC Sports Washington). The Capitals are 2-0-0 against the Hurricanes this season, including a 3-1 win at home on December 27. Action from Capital One Arena can be seen on NBC Sports Washington locally or NBCSN nationally beginning at 7 PM ET.
The Hurricanes play their lone road game in a span of eight games when they visit the nation’s capital on Tuesday night. After that stretch, they will play three of their final five games away from PNC Arena. The Hurricanes are 20-14-3 on the road this season and have gone 11-1-3 in their last 15 road games.
The Hurricanes are one of the league’s hottest teams entering Tuesday’s game. After going 15-17-5 in their first 37 games of the season, they have gone 27-9-2 in their last 38 to challenge the Pittsburgh Penguins for the third spot in the Metropolitan Division with a game in hand. They have won two straight games and are currently sitting in the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference with 91 points. The Hurricanes have not made the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2009 when they were swept by the Penguins in the Eastern Conference Final, but are looking like they will end that drought and possibly play the Capitals in the First Round this season. If the season ended on Monday, the Capitals and Hurricanes would meet in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Center Sebastian Aho leads the Hurricanes with 30 goals and 80 points in 75 games this season. In addition, his +25 rating is third on the Hurricanes behind defenseman Brett Pesce (+33), who is currently third in the NHL in that category, and forward Teuvo Teravainen (+27), who leads Carolina with 51 assists this season after recording 41 assists and 64 points last year. Aho, 21, has been in the Hart Trophy (given to the league’s MVP) discussion as he is currently tied with Winnipeg Jets center Mark Schiefele and Philadelphia Flyers forward Claude Giroux for 18th in league scoring.
The Hurricanes’ average of 2.97 goals-per-game is 15th in the NHL but their average of 2.72 goals-against per game is tied with the Vegas Golden Knights for the seventh-lowest. Their penalty-killing percentage of 81.7% is also tied with the Golden Knights for the seventh-best in the league. The Hurricanes’ average of 34.8 shots-per-game is the best in the NHL this season, though the Capitals have held them to an average of just 28 per game in the first two meetings between the teams this season. Their average of 28.6 shots-against per game is a hair behind the San Jose Sharks and Calgary Flames’ average of 28.5 for the lowest in the NHL.
Goaltender Petr Mrazek, who is 20-13-3 with a save percentage of .911, a goals-against average of 2.46, and four shutouts this season, will likely start against the Capitals on Tuesday. In his career against the Capitals, the 27-year old is 9-3-4 with a save percentage of .920, a goals-against average of 2.46, and one shutout, including a 30-save performance in the Hurricanes’ 3-1 loss at Capital One Arena on December 27.
The Capitals’ four-game homestand comes to an end after Tuesday night’s game against the Hurricanes. After dropping the first two games (0-1-1) of the homestand, the Capitals bounced back with a 3-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday afternoon. Overall, the Capitals are 22-10-6 at home this season.
Captain Alex Ovechkin will look to end a four-game goal drought, though he has posted three assists in that stretch, against the Hurricanes. With two goals on Tuesday, the 33-year-old will hit the 50-goal mark for the eighth time in his NHL career and become the first in the league to reach that mark this season. Ovechkin leads the Capitals with 84 points this season. Defenseman John Carlson leads the team with 53 assists.
Sunday’s win marked the 14th time in the last 15 games in which the Capitals scored at least three goals. They have averaged 3.53 goals-per-game in that stretch and their average of 3.37 goals-per-game this season is the fifth-most in the NHL. The team has six forwards with at least 20 goals: Ovechkin, forward T.J. Oshie (22), forwards Jakub Vrana and Tom Wilson (22 each), Brett Connolly (21), and center Evgeny Kuznetsov (20). Center Nicklas Backstrom has 18 goals this season.
The Capitals’ 57 points against the East this season is second in the conference, only behind the Lightning, who have 74. In their final nine games of the regular season, eight of them come against opponents from the Eastern Conference. In addition, their 17 wins against the Metropolitan Division are tied with the New York Islanders for the most in the NHL. The Capitals, who are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games, enter Tuesday one point ahead of the New York Islanders for the top spot in the Metropolitan Division with each team down to six games remaining before the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Goaltender Braden Holtby, who is 28-19-5 with a save percentage of .909, a goals-against average of 2.90, and three shutouts this season, will likely start against the Hurricanes on Tuesday night. In his career against Carolina, the 29-year old is 14-6-0 with a save percentage of .936, a goals-against average of 2.03, and two shutouts. He made 28 saves in the Capitals’ last meeting with the Hurricanes on December 27.
- Ovechkin’s 39 goals against the Hurricanes are tied for the third-most goals he’s scored against a single franchise (along with the Toronto Maple Leafs), only behind the Winnipeg Jets/Atlanta Thrashers (47) and Tampa Bay Lightning (45)
- The Capitals have earned a point in 16 of its last 21 games against the Hurricanes (15-5-1) and has posted a 27-10-3 record against Carolina since 2010-11
Carlson enters Tuesday two points shy of 400 career points
A Look Back In Time
Ovechkin netted his 50th goal of the season in a 4-2 win over the Hurricanes. Defenseman Mike Green in addition to forwards Joel Ward and Brooks Laich also scored for the Capitals. Holtby made 23 saves in the win.
By Harrison Brown