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Out of playoff race, Capitals visit Hurricanes

by Mike Battaglino

CAPITALS (36-30-13) at HURRICANES (34-34-11)


Last 10: Washington 4-3-3; Carolina 4-4-2

Season series: The Carolina Hurricanes have won three of four games against the Washington Capitals; the Metropolitan Division opponents have not played since Jan. 2.

Big story: The Washington Capitals were eliminated from Stanley Cup Playoff contention Wednesday by virtue of a win by the Columbus Blue Jackets and a shootout loss by the Detroit Red Wings.

The Red Wings scored their tying goal with 1:15 remaining in the third period against the Pittsburgh Penguins when a regulation loss would have kept the Capitals eligible.

"Obviously, it's a hard day to be a pro," coach Adam Oates said Thursday. "We're all very disappointed of course."

Team Scope:

Capitals: Washington had won two in a row, including 4-1 at the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday, to avoid causing their elimination.

Goaltender Braden Holtby will start seeking his third straight win after defeating the Blues.

"It's going to be tough. The mood around here is pretty somber," Holtby said. "It's a frustrating thing, but at the same time, this is when you have to come out and find something in you because there are fans out there paying good money and fans back home watching on TV that want to see us entertain them. So you put everything else aside and play hockey."

Hurricanes: Carolina was eliminated from Stanley Cup Playoff contention with a 4-1 loss to the New York Rangers on Tuesday. The Hurricanes, who have three games remaining, have missed the playoffs five straight seasons.

"It's never fun being out of the playoffs and not playing for anything. But you come to the work, be a pro, work and compete," captain Eric Staal told the team website Wednesday. "We've got a home game against a divisional team we don't like very much, and we'd like to squash it on them. Hopefully our guys come ready to play."

The Hurricanes held a 45-minute practice Wednesday.

"We've got to keep everyone focused and in good habits. We're all pros, and I think that's important that we come to practice," coach Kirk Muller said. "Same approach, same focus and same preparation. Just push to the end."

Goaltender Anton Khudobin will start.

Who's hot: Ovechkin has five points in his past three games and his goal Tuesday gave him 50 this season. Dating to last season, he has scored 73 goals in his past 98 games. Forward Nicklas Backstrom has seven points in his past five games. Defenseman John Carlson has three assists in his past two games. … Hurricanes forward Jeff Skinner has eight points in his past nine games. Khudobin has given up two or fewer goals in five of his past six games and seven of nine.

Injury report: Capitals forward Dustin Penner (upper body) returned to play Tuesday. Defenseman Mike Green (upper body) is not on the road trip and may be out for the remainder of the season. Forward Brooks Laich (groin) is out. … Hurricanes forward Jiri Tlusty (upper body) is probable. Forward Nathan Gerbe (undisclosed), defenseman Ryan Murphy (upper body) and goaltender Cam Ward (upper body) are questionable. Defenseman Andrej Sekera (lower body) is being re-evaluated. Correspondent Kurt Dusterberg contributed to this report

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