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Capitals, tied for East lead, match up with Hurricanes

by Brian Hunter /

CAPITALS (15-5-6) at HURRICANES (5-16-5)

Last 10: Washington 6-2-2; Carolina 3-5-2

Season Series:
First of six meetings this season between teams that have combined to win the Southeast Division in three of the past four seasons. They split last season's series, with each team winning once in its opponent's building. Alexander Semin of the Capitals led all scorers with six goals. Eric Staal and Ray Whitney paced the Hurricanes with three apiece.

Big Story:
Washington enters play Monday tied for the Eastern Conference lead with Pittsburgh at 36 points. Carolina sits 21 points back, with the fewest wins and points in the League. The fans at the RBC Center, just over six months removed from seeing their team play in the Eastern Conference Finals, will show up tonight hoping to watch David slay Goliath.

Team Scope:

Capitals: Even elite teams have hiccups, and Washington has been experiencing one lately. After an 0-1-2 stretch, the Capitals recovered to beat the Sabres 2-0 and got past the Canadiens 4-3 in a shootout. They let a two-goal lead slip away in that game and were 11.4 seconds away from a loss before Eric Fehr forced overtime with his second goal of the night. Nicklas Backstrom then netted the shootout winner.

"We got two points on the road and you can't be disappointed in that," Fehr said. "But at the same time, we've got to be a little bit better and make sure we play a full 60 minutes, which we haven't done in a while."

Hurricanes: Just when Carolina appeared to be turning the corner, with three wins in four games earlier this month, a stretch of four straight losses followed – the last two in particularly horrific fashion. The Hurricanes led the Thrashers 4-1 after two periods Friday and held a 1-0 edge over the Sabres after two periods Saturday, only to yield five goals in the third of both games.

"It's no fun here right now," center Eric Staal said. "Obviously, we're fragile. That's two games in a row where the third period comes around and we lose both. That's the sign of a team that isn't feeling it."

Who's Hot:
Alex Ovechkin is close to maintaining a goal-per-game pace, with three in his last four and 18 in 20 games this season. Fehr has three goals in his last two games.

Matt Cullen has goals in two straight and points in three straight for the Hurricanes.

Injury Report:
Washington defensemen Shaone Morrisonn (concussion) and Tom Poti (upper body) are possibilities to make their return Monday. Still on injured reserve are Semin (wrist) and fellow forwards Mike Knuble (broken finger), Boyd Gordon (back) and Quintin Laing (broken jaw).

Carolina will be without goaltender Cam Ward (lacerated left leg) and forward Scott Walker (upper body). Also questionable for this game are forward Chad LaRose with an undisclosed injury and defenseman Joni Pitkanen (upper body).

Stat Pack:
Ovechkin lights up everyone he faces, but he's been extremely potent on Carolina's home ice, notching eight goals and eight assists in his previous nine visits to Raleigh. ... Only five Capitals scored goals in last season's series, as compared to 13 different Hurricanes.

Puck Drop:
Washington finds itself partway through a stretch where it plays 13 of 17 away from home. Fehr cautioned that the Capitals can't take stretches of games off, and this one definitely presents the trap possibility if they don't come out taking the 'Canes seriously.

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