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'Canes try to avenge early loss to Caps

by Corey Masisak

CAPITALS (8-2-0) at HURRICANES (5-4-3)

TV: CSN-DC (HD), FS-Carolinas (HD)

Last 10: Carolina 5-3-2

Season Series: This is the second meeting of the season. Mike Green scored 2:24 into overtime on Oct. 8 to give the Capitals a season-opening 4-3 victory at Verizon Center.

Big Story: The inconsistent Hurricanes will try to close the gap on the Southeast Division-leading Capitals, who have dropped two of their last three games but are still among the NHL's elite.

Team Scope:

Capitals: Sometimes it is hard to fathom how a team that is so successful ends up dealing with so many controversies, real or overblown. The last time Washington played Carolina, the agent for Tomas Vokoun was furious that his client didn't start the first game of the season. He's started every game since and is having a great first campaign with the Capitals.

The most recent saga was also diffused quickly. Captain Alex Ovechkin was left on the bench in the final moments of regulation when his team needed a goal -- and clearly wasn't happy about it at the time. The next day everyone with the team, from coach Bruce Boudreau to Ovechkin to teammates, said the right things about the situation and this season being more about accountability and reward for good performance than in past years.

Hurricanes: It has not been a great start to the season in Raleigh, and yet the Hurricanes are currently among the top eight in the Eastern Conference. Seven losses in 12 outings and having yielded four more goals than they've scored are not trends the team would like to continue if the postseason is to be at the end of this journey.

The new additions have been slow to get comfortable for Carolina as Alexei Ponikarovsky, Tomas Kaberle and Anthony Stewart have combined for just four goals and three assists to this point. Captain Eric Staal had three points against Washington, but only two since and he is a League-worst minus-12.

Who's Hot: Nicklas Backstrom had a terrible postseason for the Capitals, but he leads the team with 14 points this season, and he stole a win for Washington on Tuesday night be scoring a goal in the final minute of regulation and one in overtime. Joel Ward has three goals in the past five contests for the Capitals, and his line (along with Brooks Laich and Jason Chimera) continues to be the team's most consistent. … One potential concern for the Hurricanes in the preseason was a "sophomore slump" for Jeff Skinner, but he has been the team's best skater. Skinner has six goals and 12 points, and is headed towards a second-straight All-Star appearance at this pace.

Injury Report: Goalie Michal Neuvirth hasn't started since opening night for the Capitals, but did appear in relief of Vokoun in Vancouver last Saturday. He should start one of the team's two games this weekend. Green (ankle) and Troy Brouwer (shoulder) are question marks, but were expected to travel with the team. … Jussi Jokinen is expected to be out for a few weeks with a lower-body injury for the Hurricanes. Rookie Zac Dalpe's slow start was compounded by a lower-body injury, but he could return soon.

Stat Pack: Skinner leads all second-year players with 12 points. He has one more than fellow 2010 draft pick Tyler Seguin. Staal has a long way to go to reach the franchise mark for futility in plus-minus (Doug Sulliman's minus-57 came in the 1982-83 season). As for since the team moved to Raleigh, the lowest belongs to Rod Brind'Amour, who was a minus-29 two seasons ago.

Puck Drop: Jim Rutherford is the second-longest tenured general manager in the League, and he's had a lot of duties during his 18 years as GM. Now has he another one: Minority owner. Rutherford was one of 10 new partners announced Thursday by majority owner Peter Karmanos, Jr.

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