WASHINGTON - A little more than five months after ousting the then-defending Stanley Cup champions in the First Round of the playoffs, the Carolina Hurricanes return to Washington to square off with the Capitals in their home opener.
The divisional match-up pits the 1-0 Hurricanes against the 2-0 Capitals, two teams who will likely be jockeying for playoff positioning in the Metro until game 82.
"I expect a good hockey game. Every game we play against these guys is a tough game," head coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "There is a lot of emotion in this. It's their home opener. I would expect a real hard-fought game, like they all are."
Now We've Got Bad Blood
As Brind'Amour said, there is sure to be a lot of emotion in Saturday's contest. Five months later, a double-overtime, Game 7 dagger still stokes the flames of this escalating rivalry.
"It should be [emotiona]. I wouldn't expect anything less. We had a hard-fought, seven-game series. That was probably the most intense hockey I've ever played," Jordan Martinook said. "Every time we play them, it seems like it elevates. I think everyone needs to ramp up their game and prepare for a battle because we know it's going to be. They should think the same thing."
Video: Brind'Amour: "Other teams know they have to be ready"
Saturday will mark T.J. Oshie's first regular-season game back on Washington ice after he suffered a broken collarbone in Game 4 of the First Round, the unfortunate result of a check levied near the boards by Warren Foegele.
"He has to play his game," Brind'Amour said of Foegele. "It should be a non-issue. He's got to go out and play and do what he does. If other stuff happens, we'll deal with it, but he can't be worrying about other things. He's got to worry about his game."
The Hurricanes began their 2019-20 campaign with a shootout victory over the Montreal Canadiens at home. With goals from Lucas Wallmark and Martin Necas, the Canes jumped out to a 2-0 lead before the Canadiens stormed back with three straight goals to take a 3-2 advantage into the second intermission.
"We didn't really play our game for two periods. I give the other team a ton of credit because they were forcing us to do things that's just not how we play," Brind'Amour said after the game. "In the third period, the guys made a commitment to just get back to doing it how we draw it up."
Erik Haula netted his first goal with the Canes in his return to regular-season action, 11 months after suffering a season-ending knee injury. His goal eventually forced extra hockey, the fourth straight Canes' season opener that has progressed to overtime, and a shootout was required to decide a winner. Dougie Hamilton scored the lone goal, while Petr Mrazek was a perfect three-for-three at the other end of the ice.
"We didn't want to give up a two-goal lead and all that, but we showed resiliency in the first game, which is always nice," Martinook said. "We'll try to clean up quite a few defensive lapses."
In any case, a win is a win, and the Hurricanes are 1-0. As strength and conditioning coach Bill Burniston likes to say, they won the day.
"We found a way to come back and have a real good third period," Brind'Amour said. "The most important thing is getting the win."
Saturday's game marks the tail end of a back-to-back divisional set for the Capitals, who edged the Islanders 2-1 on Long Island on Friday night. Washington opened its season by spoiling the St. Louis Blues Stanley Cup banner raising with a 3-2 overtime win.
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