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Capitals need single point to clinch playoff spot

Holtby seeking 42nd win of season as Washington hosts Carolina

by Katie Brown / Correspondent

HURRICANES (31-26-12) at CAPITALS (49-14-5)

TV: 7 p.m. ET; FS-CR, CSN-DC, NHL.TV

WASHINGTON -- The Washington Capitals will clinch a Stanley Cup Playoff spot with at least a point against the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday.

The Capitals could also lose in regulation and still clinch a playoff spot if the Detroit Red Wings or Pittsburgh Penguins lose in regulation, or if the Red Wings win in regulation and the Penguins lose to the Islanders in any fashion.


It would be the fastest Washington has clinched a playoff spot since 2009-10.The Capitals lead the NHL with 103 points and are tied for the fifth-most wins (49) through 68 games in NHL history.

After a 2-1-1 road trip, coach Barry Trotz has shuffled the forward lines to boost production, particularly captain Alex Ovechkin, who is in the midst of a season-long five-game scoring drought.

Ovechkin leads the NHL with 41 goals but has just two goals in his past 10 games. Trotz promoted Jay Beagle from the fourth line to the top line with Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom.

"I've played with them in the past and I played with them for a bit last year," Beagle said. "I love playing with them. Getting to play with two of the best players in the world, so that's always exciting. I think it's just keeping it simple and working hard and playing my game and try to get them the puck."

Trotz said the line changes might not stick, but he wanted to shake things up since he's been unhappy with Washington's 3-2-1 record over its past six games. The Capitals have allowed the first goal in 13 of their past 15 games.

"With the schedule that we have, five days, four games, I think we just mentally go downhill," Ovechkin said. "We're experienced enough [to] bounce back too. One shift can bounce back right easily."

Carolina is five points out of the second wild card spot into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference with 74 points. The Hurricanes realize they're facing a team that needs only a point to secure a playoff spot, but their focus remains internal.

"I think all of us are just worried about our own team," defenseman Noah Hanifin said. "For us it's simple, we want to keep getting two points. I think that's where our focus is at right now."

Carolina goalie Eddie Lack will start. Braden Holtby, whose 41 wins lead the League, will be in goal for Washington.
Here are the projected lineups:

Joakim Nordstrom - Jordan Staal - Elias Lindholm
Jeff Skinner - Victor Rask - Phillip Di Giuseppe
Nathan Gerbe - Riley Nash - Chris Terry
Brad Malone- Jay McClement - Brody Sutter

Jaccob Slavin - Brett Pesce
Noah Hanifin - Ryan Murphy
Michal Jordan - Trevor Carrick

Eddie Lack
Cam Ward

Injured: Justin Faulk (lower body), Andrej Nestrasil (upper body), James Wisniewski (left ACL)
Scratched: Ron Hainsey
Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Jay Beagle
Andre Burakovsky - Evgeny Kuznetsov - T.J. Oshie
Jason Chimera - Marcus Johansson - Justin Williams
Daniel Winnik - Mike Richards - Tom Wilson

Karl Alzner - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - Dmitry Orlov
Nate Schmidt -Taylor Chorney

Braden Holtby
Philipp Grubauer
Injured: John Carlson (lower body)
Scratched: Stanislav Galiev, Michael Latta, Mike Weber
Status update: Carlson skated Monday for the first time since having surgery. There is no time frame set for his return but he hopes to play before the end of the regular season. Washington has 13 games remaining.

Who's hot: Di Giuseppe has five points in four games. Skinner has six points in his past four games. … Kuznetsov has three points in three games. Williams has three points in his past three games.

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