WASHINGTON -- The Carolina Hurricanes are trying to retain their place atop the Southeast Division despite a rash of injuries, and the Washington Capitals are trying to get back into the playoff race after a dreadful start.
That alone would make this division battle an important one, but Alexander Semin's return to Washington -- and the feelings said return elicited in Capitals forward Troy Brouwer on Monday -- have added some juice to this contest.
Semin spent seven seasons with the Capitals before signing a one-year deal in the offseason with the Hurricanes. Brouwer wasn't shy about discussing Semin's perceived lack of consistency with things like work ethic and commitment, but Hurricanes captain Eric Staal stood up for his linemate Tuesday morning after the team's skate at Verizon Center.
"You don't like to see that," Staal said. "He's been a great teammate to all of us here. We have his back. You look forward to the game tonight, and that's pretty much it. Regardless of what happens, you're going to compete your hardest for him and I'm sure he will as well.
"You never like to see anyone say things like that. Troy Brouwer seems to say that about a few guys that he's played with. He's entitled to his opinions, and we're entitled to ours. We've got nothing but good things to say about Alex. He's been great for our team and I've had a lot of fun playing with him. I look forward to the game tonight."
Here are the projected lineups:
Chad LaRose - Eric Staal - Alexander Semin
Jussi Jokinen - Jordan Staal - Patrick Dwyer
Jiri Tlusty - Riley Nash - Zac Dalpe
Andreas Nodl - Jeremy Welsh - Tim Wallace
Joe Corvo - Justin Faulk
Jay Harrison - Bobby Sanguinetti
Marc-Andre Gragnani - Ryan Murphy
Injured: Joni Pitkanen, Tim Gleason, Jamie McBain, Jeff Skinner, Tuomo Ruutu
Scratched: Drayson Bowman
Dalpe was recalled from Charlotte of the American Hockey League and will replace Bowman in the Carolina lineup. The Hurricanes are still without a trio of their top-four defensemen, so Murphy remains with the team on emergency recall from the Ontario Hockey League.
Jason Chimera - Mike Ribeiro - Alex Ovechkin
Eric Fehr - Nicklas Backstrom - Troy Brouwer
Wojtek Wolski - Mathieu Perreault - Joel Ward
Matt Hendricks - Jay Beagle - Joey Crabb
Karl Alzner - Mike Green
John Erskine - John Carlson
Tom Poti - Tomas Kundratek
Injured: Marcus Johansson, Brooks Laich, Jack Hillen
Scratched: Jeff Schultz, Roman Hamrlik, Casey Wellman
Backstrom missed practice Monday and Chimera left it early. Both are expected to play, but if one of them can't, Wellman (called up from Hershey of the American Hockey League on Tuesday morning) would draw in. Green also expects to play after missing nearly two weeks with a groin injury.