Game 15 Preview: Caps at Carolina

Posted by Dave Nichols | Wednesday, November 12, 2008 | , , | 0 comments »

QUICK PROGRAMMING NOTE: I will be on vacation Nov. 13-23. Staff photographer and fellow season ticket holder (and my wife) Cheryl Nichols will be providing previews and reviews in my absence. Hopefully she'll give me my job back when I return. On to the preview...

The Washington Capitals (8-4-2-18, tied for first in Southeast Division) travel to Carolina for an early season first place showdown with the Hurricanes (8-5-2-18, tied for first in Southeast Division) at 7:00 PM from the RBC Center.

The Caps enter tonight's match-up on a three-game win streak and have points in their last four games. Most recently, they jumped all over the Tampa Bay Lightning Monday night, scoring on their first two shots on goal against long-time Caps great Olie Kolzig en route to a 4-2 victory.

Goalie Brent Johnson, voted as the number three star of the week for his performances last week, has stopped 102 of 107 shots against since taking over playing time from Jose Theodore, coinciding with the Caps recent stretch of good play. Coach Bruce Boudreau has been quick to push aside talk of goaltending controversy, but the numbers of the two netminders speak for themselves.

Johnson will indeed make his fifth straight start for the Caps, while Boudreau hopes to get Theodore sharp over the weekend and ready for the long road trip.

Offensively, the team is paced, as it has been all season, by Alexander Semin. His 22 points (on 11 goals and 11 assists) and +13 rating place him second in scoring and atop the plus/minus standings in the NHL. His linemate, Alex Ovechkin, had a goal and assist against Tampa Bay, and seems to be finding his legs and some open ice skating with Semin and center Nicklas Backstrom, who took over for Sergei Federov when he was injured.

The team will be without Federov and defenseman Shaone Morrisonn as neither travelled with the team. Viktor Kozlov will return however, bolstering the Capitals attack, and should skate with C Michael Nylander and LW Tomas Fleischmann.

Carolina has a balanced attack, with six players with four or more goals. They have been struggling with injuries, but plan on getting Matt Cullen, Brandon Sutter and Joni Pitkanen back for tonight's game.

Michael Leighton is scheduled to start in goal tonight for Carolina. The 27-year old goaltender is 4-1 with a .921 save percentage and 2.37 goals against average this season and has never faced the Capitals in his career. It will be Leighton's second start in three games in place of No. 1 goalie Cam Ward, who's 4-4-2 with a 2.86 goals against and .910 save percentage.

WAS: PP-24th (14.8%, 9-61); PK-19th (80.0%, 15/75)
CAR: PP-21st (15.9%, 11/69); PK-14th (81.5%, 12/65)

WAS: LW Alexander Semin (11-11-22, +13); G Brent Johnson (NHL 3RD STAR OF THE WEEK; 4-1-2, 2.11, .931)
CAR: C Eric Staal (5-4-9, +5); RW Tuomo Ruutu (5-5-10, +2)


WAS: RW Matt Bradley (1-0-1, -1); Milan Jurcina (1-0-1, -3)
CAR: C Rob Brind'Amour (league worst -13)

WAS: D Brian Pothier (concussion-OUT); D Shaone Morrisonn (groin-DTD/OUT); C/D Sergei Federov (undisclosed-DTD/OUT)
CAR: D Frantisek Kaberle (leg,-OUT); D David Tanabe (concussion-OUT); RW Patrick Eaves (undisclosed-OUT); RW Justin Willimas (achilles-OUT)