Not only are the Washington Capitals an elite team in the NHL, but they’ll present another problem for the Hurricanes tonight: they’re angry.
The Capitals are coming off a 5-0 loss to the cellar-dwelling New Jersey Devils on Monday night, prompting some tough words and an even tougher practice at the RBC Center on Tuesday. They’re now on a three-game losing streak, having dropped their previous road contest in Atlanta by that same 5-0 margin.
Following what Washington defenseman Mike Green called “one of our worst games in two years,” the Caps will be looking to get back to the game they displayed in this same building on Oct. 27, which coach Bruce Boudreau called their best of the season.
“They will come in a little snarly and a little focused, but that’s the way it works,” said Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice. “They have a big, powerful team, and they’ll respond.”
Justin Peters gets a surprise nod in goal for the Hurricanes, as expected starter Cam Ward became a new father at 6:33 a.m. on Wednesday. Ward, who was at the hospital with wife Cody overnight as she prepared to give birth to son Nolan Kennedy Ward, will still dress as the backup.
“If it had been at a reasonable hour and he had a chance to get some sleep (it might be different), but he just didn’t get a chance to get any,” said Maurice. “We wanted to give Justin his first home (start), so it worked out.”
Tuesday trade acquisition Ryan Carter may have been able to get slightly more rest on his red-eye flight from Anaheim, having departed the west coast at 10 p.m. pacific time and arrived in Raleigh at 6 a.m. local. Because of that, he will be in the lineup, centering the fourth line in place of Jon Matsumoto, who will be a healthy scratch.
“We’re not going to ask him to stop any pucks, so we think he can handle the change,” said Maurice of Carter.
It’s been a crazy 24 hours for the newest Hurricane, who had more or less unpacked his bags after clearing waivers at noon Tuesday, only to find out he had been traded mere hours later.
“It was up and down,” he said. “My wife was about to strangle me. I told her I got traded, and she was like, ‘Shut up.’ She didn’t believe me. I had to pull my phone out and show her the records that somebody actually did call, but she was excited.”
Carter will be part of a new-look fourth line for the Canes, along with Jiri Tlusty and former Ducks teammate Troy Bodie, who just arrived via waivers last week. While the organization is hopeful that Tlusty can still develop into more of an offensive player, all three are capable of grinding defensively and giving the team a more traditional fourth line than the mix-and-match of skill players they’ve used there thus far.
“(Carter and Bodie) can kill penalties if we need to, and we can work them into that,” said Maurice. “We’ve got a little bit bigger lineup there, and hopefully we can get a little more forecheck out of our fourth line rather than trying to play even all the time. I’m hopeful they can do some things.”
Matsumoto was made a healthy scratch due to the arrival of Carter and the fact that Patrick Dywer, who was hurt blocking a shot during Tuesday’s practice, will be able to play. General Manager Jim Rutherford has been public about his desire to not carry extra players with the American Hockey League so close by, meaning that an assignment to Charlotte could come soon. All four players currently in the fourth-line mix, including Bodie, Carter, Matsumoto and Tlusty, would need to clear waivers first. (UPDATE: Matsumoto has been placed on waivers)
The Capitals are somewhat banged up on the back end, with Green, Tom Poti and Tyler Sloan all nursing injuries that have them questionable at best to face the Canes. The team recalled defenseman Brian Fahey Wednesday morning.
Washington forward Mike Knuble is out with a facial injury, while goaltender Michal Neuvirth, who was pulled from his expected Monday start after a minor injury suffered during the morning skate, should be available. Neuvirth, the NHL’s rookie of the month in October, made 29 saves in shutting out the Canes in the teams’ first meeting.