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Home at last, Hurricanes face off with Capitals

by Brian Hunter
CAPITALS (5-3-0) at HURRICANES (4-3-0)


Season Series:
First of six meetings this season between these Southeast Division rivals. They split their 2009-10 series, with four of the six matchups decided either in overtime or a shootout. Alexander Semin and Mike Green scored 4 goals apiece for Washington, while Eric Staal had 4 goals and 10 points for Carolina.

Joe Corvo scored a power-play goal for the Hurricanes in the first game on Nov. 30, 2009, then, after being dealt to the Capitals at the trade deadline, he scored twice against his former team on March 18. During the offseason, Corvo signed back with Carolina.

Fifteen different players scored at least one goal for the Hurricanes and four different goaltenders (Cam Ward, Justin Peters, Michael Leighton and Manny Legace) picked up at least one decision.

Alex Ovechkin collected 7 assists but was held without a goal in five games. He also amassed 17 penalty minutes and missed one game due to suspension.

Big Story: Carolina plays its first game of the regular season at the RBC Center, becoming the 30th and final NHL team to have its home opener. The Hurricanes have a "home" win to their credit already, one of the two they earned in Helsinki, Finland, in their season-opening series with the Wild, but this is the first time their fans will get to see them play since an Oct. 1 preseason game against the Thrashers.

"I think that coming off a road trip that was a very difficult schedule and having more confidence in yourself than when you left -- we're very happy about that," coach Paul Maurice said. "I don't know that being a game over .500 fires us up and that this is going to be easy for us, but I think it's more a general understanding that we’re playing pretty good hockey, and if we keep improving in some areas we'll be a good team."

Team Scope:

Capitals: This is the start of a three-game road trip for Washington, with games to follow in Minnesota and Calgary. The Capitals come off a 4-3 win over the Thrashers on Saturday, a game in which Semin recorded the hat trick in regulation and Tomas Fleischmann netted the overtime winner.

"It was a lucky bounce, I would say," Fleischmann said about cleaning up the rebound of an Eric Fehr shot. "I just tried to shoot it somehow on the net. But I hit it pretty good I think, so I was lucky."

Hurricanes: Defenseman Anton Babchuk ensured Carolina would return home from its long, season-opening journey with a winning record when he scored 2:52 into overtime Saturday night in Phoenix, giving the Hurricanes a 4-3 victory after they let a 3-0 lead slip away in the third.

"This was the last game for us at the end of 20 days," Babchuk said. "We really wanted to win that for sure. I'm glad we won."

Who's Hot:
Semin (5-3-8) now leads the Capitals in goals and is tied with Ovechkin (4-4-8) atop the team scoring list. … Jussi Jokinen (2-4-6) had a goal and an assist Saturday to tie him for the Hurricanes' scoring lead with Staal (3-3-6).

Injury Report:
Washington hopes to have rookie center Marcus Johansson back in the lineup after he missed Saturday's game with a hip flexor. Defenseman Tom Poti also missed the game and is day-to-day with a lower-body injury, the same problem ailing forward Matt Bradley, who has missed the last five games. Goalie Semyon Varlamov is nursing a groin injury. Green returned against Atlanta after missing three games but only skated on the power play, taking four shifts for 5:39 of ice time.

Stat Pack:
The Capitals already own three overtime wins this season, over the Islanders, Predators and Thrashers. … Hurricanes defenseman Joni Pitkanen finished with 2 assists and 5 blocked shots while seeing a game-high 26:07 of ice time against the Coyotes.

Puck Drop: Eighteen-year-old rookie Jeff Skinner scored his first NHL goal and picked up 4 points in Carolina's first seven games, and now he's ready to experience playing in front of a rocking RBC Center crowd against the three-time defending Southeast champs.

"The guys have told me how loud it's going to be and how crazed the atmosphere is going to be," Skinner told the Raleigh News & Observer. "I'm really excited about it."

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