Game 65 Preview: Caps Have Carolina On Their Minds

Posted by Dave Nichols | Tuesday, March 03, 2009 | , , | 0 comments »

The Washington Capitals (40-19-5-85, first in Southeast, T-2 in East) host the Carolina Hurricanes (32-27-5-69, third in Southeast, T-9 in East) at 7:00 p.m. from Verizon Center

The Caps are reeling a little bit lately despite playing six of their last seven games at home. They are 4-3 over that stretch, having dropped to Colorado, Philadelphia and, most recently, Florida at Verizon Center, where they had built the Eastern Conference's best home record of 25-7-1.

Washington did not look like a team battling for the second seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs Sunday. Rather, in the 6-2 loss to Florida, all their faults were illustrated and magnified.

Too many minor penalties, leading to three power play goals against in the first period alone. Defensive indifference, to the point of putting 39 year old center Sergei Fedorov on defense in the third period. Shaky goaltending by starter Jose Theodore, allowing four goals on 17 shots in the first period before being lifted for backup Michal Neuvirth.

But perhaps worst of all was the general malaise the team found itself in, despite scoring the first goal of the game less than two minutes into it. It was the classic "mailing it in" game. And really, using the second night of a back-to-back excuse was void, since at least Washington was in its own building. Florida was playing a back-to-back, all on the road, and cane out with more energy and passion than the home team did.

Coach Bruce Boudreau didn't have the answers in the postgame press conference. "We got beat to every loose puck. It seemed like they had the puck in the power play for the whole two minutes in our zone every time," Boudreau said. "I can't sugarcoat it and I can't find excuses for it. We weren't very good."

The Hurricanes look to rebound from a very disappointing loss themselves.

Carolina (32-27-5) appeared on the way to its fifth win in six games with a two-goal lead midway through the third period Saturday night at Atlanta - the league's worst home team. The Thrashers, however, stunned the Hurricanes by scoring four straight goals en route to a 5-3 victory.

A win over Atlanta would have put Carolina in the top eight of the conference, but they still find themselves one point behind Pittsburgh for that final playoff spot.

Carolina is led by Ray Whitney (18-33-51, minus-10), Eric Staal (27-22-49, minus-1) and Tuomo Ruutu (17-22-39, minus-5). Cam Ward is their starting goalie, and he is 26-21-5 in 51 games with a 2.58 goals against and .909 save percentage.

The Caps expect to welcome back RW Viktor Kozlov after missing Sunday's game nursing his lingering groin injury. Additionally, Staffan Kronwall will be in the lineup as well, leaving Michael Nylander and John Erskine as the healthy scratches. Theodore is scheduled to start between the pipes.

With the NHL trade deadline approaching on Wednesday, Nylander may find himself part of that mix, as he's now been scratched for four consecutive games, including the loss Sunday when Jay Beagle was called up from AHL Hershey to replace Kozlov on the active roster.

WAS: PP-2nd (24.7%, 66-267); PK-22nd (79.4%, 65-315)
CAR: PP-25th (15.8%, 46/292); PK-25th (79.2%, 49-236)

WAS: RW Viktor Kozlov (Groin-Probable); G Brent Johnson (Hip-IR); RW Chris Clark (Wrist-IR); D Brian Pothier (Concussion-IR)
CAR: LW Jussi Jokinen (Personal-Doubtful); D David Tanabe (Concussion-Out); RW Scott Walker (Concussion-IR); RW Justin Williams (Hand-IR)