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GAME: Washington Capitals (23-38-9) at Carolina Hurricanes (47-18-6).

TIME: Wednesday, 7 p.m. EST.

After earning their first playoff berth in four years their last time out, the Carolina Hurricanes look to clinch the Southeast Division title when they host the last-place Washington Capitals.

Martin Gerber made 23 saves as the Hurricanes beat Tampa Bay 2-1 on Monday to clinch a playoff spot for the first time since losing in the 2002 Stanley Cup finals.

"Obviously, the goal is to win the Stanley Cup," coach Peter Laviolette said. "But there's a road that you have to go down to get there, and there's 82 games on it. You have to play all of them, and if you have to play them, you might as well win them."

Mark Recchi registered his first goal with Carolina after going scoreless in his first eight games since being acquired from Pittsburgh three weeks ago. Cory Stillman scored the Hurricanes' other goal, and has three goals and 10 assists in his last nine home games.

Carolina has won 14 of its last 16 games at the RBC Center, but has just two victories in its last 10 home games against Washington. The Hurricanes lost 3-1 to the Capitals in Raleigh on Saturday.

"The true test will be (Wednesday)," Laviolette said. "If we're really mad about what happened the other night against Washington we'll clean the slate when we play them again. The proof will be in the pudding as to whether we were really disturbed and disappointed with the effort we put in a few nights ago."

Gerber is 14-1 at the RBC Center since Dec. 13, with his only loss coming against Washington on Saturday.

The Capitals haven't played since Saturday, when they snapped a season-high eight-game losing streak.

"They work so hard every night, and to go eight games without a win is difficult," Washington coach Glen Hanlon said. "For them to come out and to play that hard and play that well is a testament to the character in the room."

Goalie Olaf Kolzig made 33 saves to improve to 10-3-1 with a 2.09 goals-against average against Carolina since the start of the 2002-03 season. Rookie Alexander Ovechkin scored his 47th goal of the season, and has a five-game point streak with four goals and five assists over that span.

"Right now, we have (12) games left," Ovechkin said. "It's just the end of the season, and right now, I want to play hard and improve. I want to win."

STANDINGS: Capitals - 55 points, 5th place, 45 PB, Southeast Division. Hurricanes - 100 points, 1st place, Southeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Capitals - Ovechkin, 47 goals, 44 assists and 91 points; Chris Clark, 96 PIM. Hurricanes - Eric Staal, 42 goals, 49 assists and 91 points; Mike Commodore, 105 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Capitals - Power play: 14.3 percent (61 for 427), 28th in NHL. Penalty killing: 78.1 percent (374 for 479), 29th. Hurricanes - Power play: 18.1 percent (85 for 469), 13th. Penalty killing: 82.4 percent (318 for 386), 15th.

GOALTENDERS: Capitals - Kolzig (18-26-9, 3.52 GAA); Brent Johnson (5-11-0, 4.03). Hurricanes - Gerber (34-12-4, 3 SO, 2.67); Cam Ward (13-6-2, 3.52).


LAST MEETING: Saturday; Capitals, 3-1. At Raleigh, N.C., Matt Pettinger scored a short-handed goal and Dainius Zubrus scored on the power play midway through the third period to seal it for Washington.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Capitals - 8-21-3 on the road; Hurricanes - 28-6-1 at home.

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