HURRICANES (31-26-10) at CAPITALS (38-20-10)
TV: FS-CR (HD), CSN-DC (HD)
Carolina 4-4-2; Washington 8-2-0
The Capitals have won all four meetings this season -- the last three have each been a 3-2 decision. Washington won 19 of 24 games against the Southeast Division last season and three of those losses were to Carolina.
The Capitals will try to stay in front of Tampa Bay for the division lead while trying to keep pace with Philadelphia and Boston in the race for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. The Hurricanes are locked in a three-team battle for the final two spots in the conference with Buffalo and the New York Rangers as Toronto, Atlanta and New Jersey try to expand the field.
Carolina has lost two in a row after a pair of victories to start the month. That's been the problem for the Hurricanes -- they've been stuck in neutral since the All-Star break. Carolina is 6-7-4 since hosting the 2011 NHL All-Star Game, but could tie the Rangers at 74 points with a victory against Washington.
had a night off after 24 straight games in a 5-2 loss to Chicago, but coach Paul Maurice said he will play his No. 1 goaltender in all of the team's remaining games if necessary. Ward has started 59 games this season, near the top of the League leaders with 15 games left. Ward could end up leading all NHL goalies in games started for the first time in his career.
Washington can set a season-high with a seventh straight victory Friday night. The Capitals picked up No. 6 in easy fashion, dispatching Edmonton 5-0 at Verizon Center on Wednesday. The Capitals have won nine of 11 games, and goaltender Braden Holtby
has won the past two. Holtby has spent most of this season with Hershey in the AHL, but he's allowed three goals in his past five NHL games, including none on 43 shots in these two since rejoining the Capitals.
Erik Cole has 7 points in the past seven games for Carolina, while Cory Stillman has 5 points in the past five games for the Hurricanes. … Ovechkin has 6 goals and 16 points in his past 11 games. Alexander Semin
has goals in three straight games for the Capitals.
Washington center Nicklas Backstrom
is questionable because of a thumb injury -- he missed the first game of his career Wednesday. Defensemen Mike Green
(head/ear) and Tom Poti
(groin) are out for the Capitals. Green was placed on long-term injured reserve Wednesday and is not eligible to come off until March 22. Goalie Semyon Varlamov (knee) is also out of the lineup. The Hurricanes are healthy.
There have been nine goaltenders 22 years of age or younger play at least 10 games in the NHL this season, and the Capitals have three of them (Holtby, Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth
). The Hurricanes have collected seven points in games against Atlanta this season -- Cole has scored the game-winning goal three times and tallied the goal that got Carolina to overtime Wednesday.
The Capitals authored two of the three best seasons in power-play proficiency of the past 15 years in 2008-09 and 2009-10, but their work on the man advantage has dropped off significantly this year.
The Capitals scored multiple PP goals Wednesday for the first time in 44 games, which had been a franchise record. Washington has converted five of its last 28 power-play chances, but that is over a span of 10 games because part of the problem is the Capitals are not earning enough opportunities. The five power plays against Edmonton was only the fourth times since Jan. 11 that Washington has had that many.