Pregame #77: Washington Capitals vs. Carolina Hurricanes

Washington Capitals (44-22-10) vs. Carolina Hurricanes (35-30-10)
Location: Verizon Center
7:00 PM
TV:  Comcast SportsNet (HD) (Game On!)
Radio:  1500AM, 820 AM, and XM
Previous Games:
Oct 27, 2010 WSH@CAR 3-0 W
Nov 24, 2010 WSH@CAR 3-2 W
Nov 28, 2010 CAR@WSH 3-2 W
Dec 26, 2010 WSH@CAR 3-2 W
Mar 11, 2011 CAR@WSH 2-1 W
Games Remaining: None
Friendly Faces of Former Capitals:  Joe Corvo (2010)
The Enemy: Canes Country

The Southeast Division-leading Washington Capitals have a chance to reach 100 standings points for the third year in a row.  The Caps also have the chance to sweep the season series when they face the struggling Carolina Hurricanes tonight. The Caps have been nearly unbeatable over the past month.  They have gone 12-2 in their last 14 games, often without many of their star players in the lineup, though it is possible they will have reinforcements later this week.  Braden Holtby, star of the Caps shutout victory in Montreal, has been returned to Hershey

The Canes have gone 4-5-1 in their last 10, including the last time they saw Verizon Center ice, and have been struggling just to keep pace with the surging Buffalo Sabres for the last playoff spot.  Injuries haven’t been the issue, rather it is their inconsistent play.  If the Caps can catch the Canes scoreboard-watching again tonight, they could be the recipients of giveaways caused by mental mistakes. 

Injury Report:  Capitals’ LW Alexander Ovechkin (undisclosed) and C Jason Arnott (lower body) are day-to-day.  Defensemen Mike Green (head) and Tom Poti (groin) are on long-term injured reserve.  G Michal Neuvirth (illness) is under the weather, but should be well enough to back up Semyon Varlamov.
-Hurricanes D Joni Pitkanen (food poisoning) is questionable.

Arnott and Ovechkin are back in practice!  Read On!

Three Things To Watch For:

Hurricane Marco:  Marco Sturm finally got his first Capitals goal this past weekend as part of a two-point effort in Montreal.  Sturm seems to have found his skating legs and has regained his confidence after skating on the top line with Nick Backstrom and Alex Semin in Montreal and again at practice yesterday.

Top-Line Trouble:  The Carolina Hurricanes’ top line of Eric Staal, Cory Stillman and Erik Cole all have 4-game scoring streaks, with 5 points each.  They have had good synergy since being reunited at the trade deadline, but they haven’t been able to get the Hurricanes back into the final playoff spot.  These three players can make a lot of trouble for the Caps if the defense doesn’t contain them.

Crumbling Corvo:  Former Cap Joe Corvo has been struggling lately.  With only 1 assist and a -5 rating in his last 9 games, Corvo’s bad defense and scoring slump has been a major reason for the Hurricanes slowly oozing out of playoff position.  If the Caps can take advantage of Corvo tonight, they should be able to get some quality scoring chances on Canes goalie Cam Ward.