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Caps hope to snap road woes against Hurricanes

by Mike G. Morreale
CAPITALS (14-6-2) at HURRICANES (9-9-2)
Last 10:
Washington 6-2-2; Carolina 4-4-2
Season series -- Second of six meetings this season between these Southeast Division rivals. The Capitals posted a 3-0 victory in Carolina on Oct. 27 as Michal Neuvirth made 29 saves. Nicklas Backstrom scored a pair of goals, including an empty-netter with 1:28 left in regulation, and Matt Hendricks scored the only goal in the first for Washington.
Big story --
Carolina center Eric Staal will be playing his 500th NHL game when he takes the ice against the Capitals. He'll be only the 10th player in franchise history to reach that 500-game plateau and the fifth to play that many games since the franchise relocated to North Carolina in the summer of 1997. The Hurricanes' captain leads the team with 9 goals, 14 assists and 23 points in 20 games.
Team Scope:
Capitals -- Three straight losses to Atlanta, Philadelphia and New Jersey -- by a combined score of 14-4 -- have dropped the Capitals from the top slot in the Eastern Conference by virtue of their shootout loss to the Flyers. The Capitals are 4-5-1 on the road this season and sport a League-leading 10-1-1 mark on home ice. Washington is 10-0-1 when it scores a power-play goal and 8-0-0 when leading after two periods -- something that has been hard to come by in recent games. The Capitals recalled goalie Semyon Varlamov from the team's American Hockey League affiliate in Hershey on Monday. Varlamov won a 4-3 decision in his third rehab start for the Bears on Sunday and was 2-1 with a 3.36 goals-against average and .855 save percentage at the time of his recall.
Hurricanes -- Carolina hadn't lost in a game that extended beyond regulation until dropping back-to-back shootout decisions on consecutive nights to Pittsburgh on Friday and Nashville on Saturday. Against Nashville, defenseman Joni Pitkanen scored the only goal working with new defensive partner Ian White. Cal O'Reilly matched Carolina's Jeff Skinner in the first round of the shootout before Nashville's Martin Erat connected for the decisive shootout tally against goalie Cam Ward, who has never beaten the Predators (0-3-1) in his career.
Who's hot -- Neuvirth shares the NHL lead with 12 wins. He's the first Capitals goalie to post 10 wins in the team's first 16 games and is closing in on the Capitals' rookie record for victories (18 by Jim Carey in 1994-95).
Injury report -- Capitals forward Mike Knuble (face) is out after getting hit in the face with a puck last week and defenseman Tom Poti (groin) is doubtful. Neuvirth (lower body) is day-to-day. … There are no injuries to report for Carolina.
Stat pack --
Washington did not allow five goals in any of its first 19 games, but its opponent has put up five goals (one via the shootout) in three straight.
Puck drop -- "If we fail like this it's everybody's fault. It's not just (the players') fault. We all have to pick up our socks and find out what's gone wrong in these last three games. You go 8-0-1 and then you (play poorly). I know it happens, but it doesn't happen to us. So I don't like it." --Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau following his team's 5-0 loss to the Devils on Monday

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