RALEIGH, N.C. -- The mood was gloomy in the Washington Capitals locker room after the morning skate, about 12 hours after the Capitals were eliminated from contention for the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The combination of a Columbus Blue Jackets win and a shootout loss by the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday pushed Washington out of picture.
"Obviously, it's a hard day to be a pro," Capitals coach Adam Oates said. "We're all very disappointed of course. It's about us. We didn't get the job done. We've got to be better as coaches, we've got to be better as players."
It is a time of year that players search for words to describe their feelings, even though nothing quite explains the sting of missing out on the postseason.
"It's going to be tough. The mood around here is pretty somber," said goaltender Braden Holtby, who will start for Washington against the Carolina Hurricanes. "It's a frustrating thing, but at the same time, this is when you have to come out and find something in you because there are fans out there paying good money and fans back home watching on TV that want to see us entertain them. So you put everything else aside and play hockey."
The Hurricanes also will miss the playoffs, for the fifth straight season. Coach Kirk Muller said Carolina will use the final three games to try some different combinations at forward and on defense, but he expects an emphasis on winning.
"You always want to go and perform your best," Muller said. "It's a great League here and a privilege to play every game. We owe it to our fans to finish on a good note."
Hurricanes defenseman Ryan Murphy was reassigned to the Charlotte Checkers of the American Hockey League on Thursday.
Here are the projected lineups:
Mikhail Grabovski - Nicklas Backstrom - Alex Ovechkin
Dustin Penner - Marcus Johansson - Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera - Eric Fehr - Joel Ward
Evgeny Kuznetsov - Jay Beagle - Tom Wilson
Karl Alzner - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Tyson Strachan
Julien Brouillette - Connor Carrick
Scratched: Aaron Volpatti, Patrick Wey, Jack Hillen
Injured: Mike Green (upper body), Brooks Laich (groin)
Andrei Loktionov - Eric Staal - Alexander Semin
Nathan Gerbe - Jordan Staal - Patrick Dwyer
Jeff Skinner - Riley Nash - Elias Lindholm
Jiri Tlusty - Manny Malhotra - Radek Dvorak
Ron Hainsey - Justin Faulk
John-Michael Liles - Brett Bellemore
Jay Harrison - Mike Komisarek
Scratched: Drayson Bowman
Injured: Cam Ward (upper body), Andrej Sekera (lower body)