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SKATE SHAVINGS - News and Notes from Caps' Morning Skate 4/15

Caps take to the road for first time in 2019 playoffs, expecting a boisterous crowd in the first playoff game in Raleigh in a decade, a tale of two top sixes, more

by Mike Vogel @VogsCaps / WashingtonCaps.com

On The Road Again - Washington won the first two games of its first-round Stanley Cup playoff series with the Carolina Hurricanes on home ice, and now the Caps take to the road for the first time in the postseason and the first time in two weeks, facing the Canes in Raleigh in Monday night's Game 3.

The Caps are the only one of the 16 playoff teams that has not trailed at any point in the playoffs; they've scored five first-period goals, forcing the Canes to chase them over the rest of the 60 minutes. Carolina bounced back strong on both contests, with the Caps essentially winning a pair of one-goal games, the second of them on Brooks Orpik's overtime game-winner on Saturday in Game 2.

"I think we found a way to win both games in a different manner, and I think that's how playoff hockey is," says Caps coach Todd Reirden. "Every game is going to be a little different story in how you have success. For us, the special teams were a big part of Game 1, and in Game 2 we lose the special teams, but we win the game.

"It should come back to the five-on-five game - you'd like it to - and in our case we like when that happens. And I thought we were a lot better in a lot of areas of five-on-five play [in Game 2]."

This spring represents quite the turnabout from the same point last spring. Although the Caps went on to win the Stanley Cup, they went to Columbus for Game 3 of their first-round series in a 0-2 hole after losing a pair of overtime contests on home ice at the outset of the playoffs.

"The great news is that we're up 2-0, " says Caps defenseman Matt Niskanen. "and some more great news is that we haven't played our best yet. But having said that, they're going to be really urgent tonight, and you're going to see another level from them. I think they've been pretty this series and have made it hard on us. It's been tight games and not a lot of free ice out there, so we're going to have to get a little bit better again probably, to beat these guys, and make sure that we play a smart road game."

Video: Rinkside Update | Matt Niskanen

Shout To The Top - Perhaps the most obvious early storyline out of this series is the production the Capitals are getting from their top six forwards, and the production the Hurricanes aren't getting from their own top six.

Washington's top six has combined for six goals and 14 points, and the group has had a hand in seven of the Caps' eight goals in the series. On the other side, the six forwards that comprised Carolina's top six for Game 1 - the Canes have made adjustments to that group since - have combined for two goals and three points in the first two games, and all six have a "minus" rating for the series.

Having control of the match-ups at home certainly helped Reirden have the upper hand in terms of putting his top six in favorable situations, but that shifts to the Carolina bench now that the series has moved south to Raleigh.

"I expect them to try to get away from some of the match-ups that I have been able to get," says Reirden, "whether that's our forwards or our defensemen in the particular situations we want. It can still have some effect on that; I'll have to wait and see how the game goes. I'll look back at our fourth game [of the regular season] against them [on March 28] when we were on the road and [Rod Brind'Amour] was looking to get match-ups, so that's all stuff that I've looked at as far as his cadence in controlling his bench.

"Those are things that are a challenge for the head coach and for our staff, to know what lines are coming next so we can get a favorable match-up. But all year I've not been afraid [of any match-up]. If our fourth line is on the ice and their first line is on the ice, you won't see me screaming and yelling to get them off the ice. I trust them, and I use them in that situation. I expect us to use a lot more of a four-line, six-defenseman combination as we go on the road here."

Video: Todd Reirden Pregame | April 15

At Monday's morning skate, Brind'Amour made adjustments to all four of his forward lines.

"We'll probably go with that to start," says the Canes' bench boss, referring to his new combinations, "but we'll see. We may move them around. I don't like to shuffle them around too much and I've already done it more than I like to, but we've had some circumstances the last couple of games that have kind of led to that, so I'll probably start that way."

Ex-Caps winger Justin Williams and Teuvo Teravainen have swapped spots on the top two lines, and rookie teenage phenom Andrei Svechnikov - who scored twice in Game 1 - has been moved into the top six on the left side of a unit with Jordan Staal and Williams. Teravainen will play with Nino Neiderreiter and Sebastian Aho.

"If we don't get our best players playing at their best, we're not going to win," says Brind'Amour. "That's pretty standard. We need a little more out of them, and that's obvious." 

Ten Years After - Tonight marks the first playoff game at Raleigh's PNC Arena in nearly a decade. The Canes last played a playoff game here on May 26, 2009 when the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated them 4-1 to finish off a four-game sweep of the Canes in the Eastern Conference final series that spring.

A number of players and participants in that game are still active in the league, and some will be in the building tonight in various capacities.

Reirden was an assistant coach for the 2008-09 Penguins, and Orpik and Carolina center Jordan Staal were also on that Cup-winning Pens team. Others from that team still active in the NHL: Sidney Crosby, Marc-Andre Fleury, Chris Kunitz, Kris Letang, and Evgeni Malkin.

"I've been in this building for a playoff game," says Reirden, "and more than one, and everything that goes on around it. And I can tell you - and I've shared it with the players - we need to expect a very urgent, desperate team that is going to get a lot of energy from this crowd tonight."

On the other side, Carolina coach Brind'Amour was in the penultimate season of his 20-year, 1,484-game NHL playing career, serving as Carolina's captain. Others from that team who suited up that night and are still active in the NHL: Matt Cullen, Patrick Eaves, Dennis Seidenberg, Eric Staal, and Cam Ward.

A trio of 2008-09 Hurricanes later landed in D.C. at the end of their respective NHL careers: Joe Corvo, Tim Gleason, and Scott Walker.

"It will be nice for the players," says Brind'Amour. "I think the emotion in the building will be good. It's an exciting time; obviously, the playoffs are always exciting. But I think for all of us that have been here for a long time, it will be nice to have a home game and hopefully give them a lot to cheer about."

Video: Two-Man Advantage | April 15

In The Nets - Braden Holtby carries a six-game playoff winning streak into his Monday night start against the Hurricanes. Holtby made 25 saves to earn his 47th career playoff victory, moving him ahead of Jonathan Quick and into sole possession of fourth place among active NHL netminders in postseason victories. With a win on Monday night against the Hurricanes, Holtby would move into a tie for third place on that list with Corey Crawford.

In the two games of the series to date, Holtby has posted a 2.46 GAA and a .912 save pct.

Petr Mrazek gets the net again for Carolina in Game 3. Five of the seven goals Mrazek has permitted in this series have come in the first period; he has a .688 first-period save pct. in the series and is at .941 over the rest of the game. With losses in each of the first two games of this series, Mrazek has dropped six of his last seven playoff starts.

Mrazek has an .860 save pct. in the playoffs thus far; only San Jose's Martin Jones (.849) is lower. He has a 3.50 GAA, better than only Tampa Bay's Andrei Vasilevskiy (3.73) and Jones (5.23) among all netminders in the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs.

All Lined Up - Here's how we expect the Capitals and the Hurricanes to look when they meet on Monday night in Raleigh for Game 3 of their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series:

 

WASHINGTON

Forwards

8-Ovechkin, 19-Backstrom, 43-Wilson

13-Vrana, 92-Kuznetsov, 77-Oshie

62-Hagelin, 20-Eller, 10-Connolly

65-Burakovsky, 26-Dowd, 18-Stephenson

Defensemen

74-Carlson, 3-Jensen

9-Orlov, 2-Niskanen

44-Orpik, 29-Djoos

Goaltenders

70-Holtby

1-Copley

Injuries

6-Kempny (lower body)

Scratches

23-Jaskin

34-Siegenthaler

41-Vanecek

72-Boyd

 

CAROLINA

Forwards

21-Niederreiter, 20-Aho, 86-Teravainen

37-Svechnikov, 11-Staal, 14-Williams

79-Ferland, 71-Wallmark, 48-Martinook

13-Foegele, 42-McKegg, 23-McGinn

Defensemen

74-Slavin, 19-Hamilton

22-Pesce, 27-Faulk

4-Fleury, 57-van Riemsdyk

Goaltenders

34-Mrazek

35-McElhinney

Injuries

44-de Haan (wrist)

Scratches

 8-Maenalanen

24-Bean

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