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Capitals-Hurricanes Preview @NHL

While reigning MVP Alex Ovechkin is trying to break his early-season scoring slump, Washington finds itself tied atop the Southeast Division.

The Capitals can thank Alexander Semin for putting them in that position.

Washington will try to move into sole possession of the division lead on Wednesday night when it meets the Carolina Hurricanes, who are tied with the Capitals.

With 65 goals and 112 points in 2007-08, Ovechkin also won the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL's scoring leader to help Washington (8-4-2) secure its first division title since 2000-01.

So far, Ovechkin has three goals and seven assists in his first 12 games, but the Capitals don't seem to be missing him much. That's because Semin has gotten off to a torrid start with 11 goals and 11 assists in his first 14.

Semin is on pace to finish with 75 goals and 150 points, and while that seems unlikely, he's bouncing back from a disappointing 2007-08. In 63 games last season, Semin had 26 goals and 16 assists - that was after he set career highs with 38 and 35 in 2006-07.

Ovechkin and Semin each had a hand in Washington's 4-2 win over Tampa Bay on Monday. Ovechkin assisted on Mike Green's tally during a three-goal first period, and later broke a career-high nine-game goalless drought.

Semin assisted on that goal, which made it 4-1 late in the third. Still, coach Bruce Boudreau was not overly impressed.

"We weren't very good, I didn't think," he said. "You never want to diss a win, so it was a good win. We must have done some good stuff, but it was frustrating."

Ovechkin and Semin have done their share of frustrating the Hurricanes recently. Last Thursday, Ovechkin had three assists - two coming on goals by Semin - in a 3-2 win over Carolina.

Ovechkin has two goals and six assists in a four-game streak versus the 'Canes, and three goals and four assists during a three-game run in Carolina. Semin, meanwhile, has goals in five consecutive games and points in eight straight when facing the Hurricanes.

The left wing has six goals and four assists over that span, but Washington is 4-4-0 in those contests.

Brent Johnson, expected to be a backup this season to former Hart and Vezina Trophy winner Jose Theodore, has won three straight, and is 4-0-2 with a 1.79 goals-against average in five starts this season. Johnson, though, has allowed 15 goals while dropping his last three starts in Raleigh.

Theodore is 7-4-0 with a 2.58 GAA and three shutouts in Raleigh since Hurricanes moved there a decade ago.

Carolina (8-5-2) has alternated wins and losses in its last four games, including a 5-2 defeat against Atlanta on Sunday.

Rod Brind'Amour and Ray Whitney scored to give Carolina a 2-1 lead in the second. Cam Ward, though, gave up four unanswered goals and finished with 17 saves.

"There's so many teams that can play really well one period or one game then not so well the next period or the next game," Carolina coach Peter Laviolette said. "The key is to find that consistency. We talked about finding that."

Whitney leads Carolina with nine assists and 13 points. He has one goal and five assists in his last 11 games versus the Caps.

Ward has lost his last three starts against Washington despite a 2.92 GAA. Backup Michael Leighton is 4-1-0 with a 2.37 GAA this season, but has never faced the Caps.

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