Gameday: vs. Carolina, Mar. 12

Alexander Semin returns once more, still one of the Canes' best players. (Clydeorama)

The Washington Capitals will close out their brief two-game homestand on Tuesday night with a critical game against the Southeast Division rival Carolina Hurricanes at Verizon Center.  The Caps, having lost two games over the weekend, are 10-13-1 this season for 21 standings points; they are therefore third in the Southeast Division and 12th in the Eastern Conference.  Carolina, who smoked the Devils in their last game on Saturday, are 14-9-1 for 29 standings points, which puts them on top of the Southeast Division and therefore third in the Conference.  This is the second time the two clubs have met this season; the Caps shut out Carolina in their only previous meeting, 3-0.

With workhorse starter Cam Ward out of commission because of an MCL sprain, coach Kirk Muller will be forced to turn to backup Dan Ellis in the goal this evening.  Ellis made 31 saves in that 6-3 win over Jersey over the weekend but has posted a 2.60 and .921 save percentage in his limited work this year.  Outside the crease, Muller’s men will be without two of their regular top-six wingers, as Chad LaRose (concussion) and Tuomo Ruutu (hip) are both not expected to play.  Defenseman Joni Pitkanen is day-to-day with a lower body injury but also is not likely to suit up.

Following his solid performance in relief on Sunday, perhaps Michal Neuvirth will get the call in goal from Adam Oates for his first start in more than a month.  Neuvirth, who has once again taken a back seat to Braden Holtby, has a 2.98 GAA and .890 save percentage on the season and has seen limited action over the last six weeks, barely seeing any ice and being sick twice.  On the injury front, center Brooks Laich (groin), defenseman Jack Hillen (shoulder) and defenseman Mike Green (groin) are all out and will not play.  Defenseman John Erskine is questionable with an upper-body ailment suffered Saturday against the Islanders.  After a loss in which the Caps looked starved for offense, I would doubt that Mathieu Perreault and Wojtek Wolski will be scratched again, but they may.  If they are not, I’d look for Joey Crabb and one other player, perhaps even Jason Chimera, to be sent to the press box.

Puck drops 7:08-ish.  Check back later.

Harry Hawkings is a college student credentialed to cover the Capitals for RtR.  Follow him on Twitter here for all your news needs this season.

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