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Without Ward, Hurricanes travel to Washington

by Eric Goodman

HURRICANES (15-16-9) at CAPITALS (20-15-5)


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

Season series: This is the fourth of five games between these Metropolitan Division teams. The Carolina Hurricanes won the two previous games on the road and the Washington Capitals were victorious in Raleigh on Dec. 20.

Big story: Carolina goalie Cam Ward (lower body) will not travel with the team and Anton Khudobin will start against the Capitals. Washington forward Alex Ovechkin, who leads the NHL with 30 goals, will try to keep his strong play going against the Hurricanes. Ovechkin has 69 points (26 goals, 43 assists) in 55 career games against Carolina.

Team Scope:

Hurricanes: Carolina lost five straight (0-3-2) by an average of four goals heading into the New Year's Eve game against the Montreal Canadiens, but a spirited come-from-behind victory Tuesday could be the spark the team needs to turn things around in 2014.

The Hurricanes were down 3-0 to begin the third period, but two straight power-play goals by forward Jeff Skinner, followed by goals from captain Eric Staal and forward Manny Malhotra, gave them the lead. Although the Canadiens tied it on defenseman P.K. Subban's power-play goal, Hurricanes forward Alexander Semin gave the hometown fans something to cheer about with a nifty snapshot goal while turning around in overtime.

"That’s a huge win to build some momentum going into the New Year," Muller said.

Defenseman John-Michael Liles, acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday, is expected to make his Hurricanes debut.

Capitals: Washington is in the midst of a brief cold spell offensively with an average of 1.75 goals in its past four games and Ovechkin being held scoreless over that same stretch. The Capitals had one goal each in the two road games to close out 2013, with losses to the Buffalo Sabres and Ottawa Senators on Sunday and Monday, respectively, despite a season-high 50 shots at Buffalo, and 35 against goalie Craig Anderson and the Senators.

"We had a lot of shots [in the past two games]. But especially when you get a lot of point shots, you have to get traffic and find the rebounds. That's what we practiced today," forward Nicklas Backstrom said following Capitals practice Wednesday.

Who's Hot: Skinner has four goals and two assists in the past four games for Carolina. ... Capitals forward Eric Fehr had a four-game point streak (one goal, three assists) stopped Tuesday.

Injury Report: Besides Ward, forward Riley Nash (lower body) was injured Tuesday and is expected to miss the next seven to 10 days, according to Muller. Forward Jiri Tlusty (appendectomy) and defenseman Jay Harrison (concussion) are on injured reserve. Defenseman Joni Pitkanen (heel) is out for the season. ... Capitals forward Brooks Laich (strained groin) has missed the past three games. Forward Michael Latta (lower body) and defenseman Jack Hillen (lower body) are on injured reserve.

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