Photo: Greg Forweck/Getty Images
The Washington Capitals face the Carolina Hurricanes for the second time this season on Saturday night. After trailing 2-0 in the third period, the Hurricanes rallied back to take the Capitals’ home opener 3-2 in overtime on October 5 in the first meeting between the two teams this season. Action from PNC Arena can be seen on NBC Sports Washington beginning at 7 PM ET. Capitals
The Capitals hit the road for the fifth time in the past eight games and the ninth in the last 14. Before losing two of their last three in regulation on the road, they had won five straight road games. The Capitals have a league-best 16-4-1 record away from home. They wrap up a set of back-to-back games after beating the Columbus Blue Jackets by a score of 2-1 in overtime at Capital One Arena on Friday night. They are 5-0-1 on the second half of back-to-backs this season.
The Capitals have won three of their last four games (3-1-0) and 10 their last 13 (10-3-0) after a stretch where they dropped four of seven in mid-November (3-2-2). They scored at least three goals in every game during that stretch before Friday’s win and allowed two at most in every one of those matches. They are now 10 points clear of the New York Islanders for first place in the Metropolitan Division and four ahead of the Boston Bruins for first in the Eastern Conference.
Defenseman John Carlson’s 48 points in 39 games this season lead the Capitals and are tied with New York Rangers forward Artemi Panarin and Florida Panthers forward Jonathan Huberdeau for seventh in the NHL this season, while his 35 assists are fourth and his +19 rating is tied for seventh with Bruins captain Zdeno Chara. Since posting three goals and seven points during the Capitals’ perfect four-game road trip earlier this month, the 29-year old has posted just two goals and five points in eight games and has gotten on the scoresheet in only three of those games. Captain Alex Ovechkin‘s 23 goals this season rank fourth, but he’s only scored three since recording five in the Capitals’ final three games of November. Defenseman Michal Kempny missed Friday’s win over the Blue Jackets due to illness and his status for Saturday is unknown. The Capitals recalled defenseman Christian Djoos from the AHL’s Hershey Bears before the game vs. the Blue Jackets.
The Capitals’ average of 3.49 goals-per-game this season is fourth in the NHL, while their average of 2.82 goals-against per game ranks 10th. Their power-play is currently tied with the Arizona Coyotes for 12th with a 20.8% efficiency thanks to a 0-for-15 stretch in five games before they went one-for-five against the Blue Jackets. Their 85.1% penalty-killing efficiency ranks second behind only the San Jose Sharks (88.1%). The Capitals’ average of 30.2 shots-against per game is the seventh-fewest in the NHL.
Goaltender Braden Holtby, who is 17-5-4 with a .907 save percentage and a 2.87 goals-against average this season, will start against the Hurricanes after Ilya Samsonov made 27 saves in Friday’s 2-1 win against the Blue Jackets. In 23 career outings against the Hurricanes, Holtby is 16-6-1 with a .935 save percentage, a 2.02 goals-against average, and two shutouts. He made 25 saves in the Capitals’ 3-2 overtime loss to the Hurricanes on October 5.
The Hurricanes kick off a season-long seven-game homestand on Saturday night, where they will face the Capitals twice. The two teams will clash again on Friday. The Hurricanes are 10-6-0 at PNC Arena this season but only 4-5-0 since November 2. Like the Capitals, they return from the NHL’s holiday break with a set of back-to-backs after falling to the New York Rangers by a score of 5-3 at Madison Square Garden on Friday night.
After making the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in 10 seasons last year and going all the way to the Eastern Conference Final, the Hurricanes are in a dog fight for positioning in the Metropolitan Division this season. While they occupy the second wild-card spot heading into Saturday night’s contest, they’re only three points behind the Islanders for second place. After a seven-game point-streak (6-0-1), which included a 4-0-1 road trip, the Hurricanes have lost three straight in regulation.
Forward Teuvo Teravainen leads the Hurricanes with 31 assists, the seventh-most in the NHL, and 38 points, which is 17th, in 38 games this season. He is currently riding a six-game assist streak, where he has recorded seven apples. Center Sebastian Aho, who has recorded four goals in his last five games, leads the team with 22, which ranks fifth in the league. Dougie Hamilton’s 12 goals and 35 points both rank third among NHL defensemen.
The Hurricanes’ average of 2.81 goals-against per game is currently tied with the Blue Jackets for the eighth-fewest in the league while their average of 3.29 goals-per-game is ninth. Their 23.1% power-play and 82.6% penalty-killing efficiencies both rank eighth in the NHL. The Hurricanes average 34.2 shots-per-game, which is second behind only the Montreal Canadiens (35.2), and 28.9 shots-against per game, which is tied for second with the Nashville Predators behind the Los Angeles Kings (28.1).
After goaltender James Reimer made 19 saves in Friday night’s 5-3 loss to the Rangers, Petr Mrazek, who is 14-8-2 with a .902 save percentage, a 2.69 goals-against average, and two shutouts this season, will start against the Capitals on Saturday. In his career against the Capitals during the regular season, the 27-year old has a 3-5-2 record, a .917 save percentage, a 2.52 goals-against average, and one shutout. Mrazek recorded a .899 save percentage, a 2.54 goals-against average, and a whitewash in last season’s Stanley Cup Playoff series against the Capitals.
- Ovechkin enters Saturday night one power-play goal shy of passing Teemu Selanne (255) for the third-most power-play goals in NHL history
- The Capitals’ 59 points through 39 games are tied for the fifth-highest point total through 39 games by any team since 2015-16 and three points shy of the 2018-19 Tampa Bay Lightning (62 points) for the most during this span; the Capitals and Lightning are the only two teams in the NHL to record at least 59 points through 39 games twice in the last five seasons
- The Capitals (465-230-90) only trail the Montreal Canadiens of the 1970s (501-160- 130-0) and the Bruins of the 1970s (487-190-111-0) as the winningest franchise of any decade; additionally, with a .650 point percentage, the Capitals only trail the 1970 Canadiens and Bruins (Canadiens: .712; Bruins: .689) and the 2000s Detroit Red Wings (.682) in point percentage in a decade
By Harrison Brown