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Canes must win on road to keep last-gasp hopes alive

by Ben Raby
WASHINGTON -- The Carolina Hurricanes begin a season-long five-game road trip tonight as they visit the Washington Capitals in a Southeast Division matchup at Verizon Center.

The Hurricanes are 10 points behind eighth place Winnipeg in the Eastern Conference and will play five road games in the next eight days against the Capitals, Sabres, Lightning, Panthers and Rangers.

"It's definitely going to be make or break," Hurricanes forward Anthony Stewart said of the trip. "It's going to be a dogfight and we can't get too far ahead of ourselves looking at the standings. We just have to win one game, and it's at that point in the season where one point or an overtime loss isn't acceptable. We have to start getting two points, and hopefully it starts tonight."

The Hurricanes have made a habit of earning just one standings point, dropping three of their last five games overall after regulation.

The more disturbing trend for Kirk Muller's team is that the Hurricanes held a third period lead in all three games -- a pair of shootout losses to Anaheim (Feb. 23) and Florida (Feb. 25) and an overtime loss to Tampa Bay last Saturday.

"On our home stretch we had a couple of tough points that we lost in different ways," Muller said, "but our games have been good, we've been strong and aggressive, but we have to play that same way going on the road."

Carolina has won an NHL-low seven games on the road this season (7-14-8). Cam Ward is expected to start tonight, but with a pair of back-to-back games scheduled on the road trip, backup Brian Boucher is likely to earn his first start since Dec. 3 sometime in the next few days. Boucher was activated over the weekend after missing three months with a lower-body injury.

Below are the projected lineups for tonight’s game between the Capitals and Hurricanes:

Alex Ovechkin - Brooks Laich - Marcus Johansson
Jason Chimera - Mathieu Perreault - Alexander Semin
Matt Hendricks - Jay Beagle - Troy Brouwer
Keith Aucoin - Jeff Halpern - Joel Ward

Karl Alzner - John Carlson
Jeff Schultz - Mike Green
Dmitry Orlov - Dennis Wideman

Michal Neuvirth
Tomas Vokoun

Jiri Tlusty - Eric Staal - Anthony Stewart
Jeff Skinner - Jussi Jokinen - Chad LaRose
Andreas Nodl - Brandon Sutter - Patrick Dwyer
Derek Joslin - Tim Brent - Jerome Samson

Tim Gleason - Bryan Allen
Jay Harrison - Justin Faulk
Jaroslav Spacek - Jamie McBain

Cam Ward
Brian Boucher

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