NHL Preview from The Sports Network|
Thursday, March 25th
(All times eastern)
Washington Capitals (49-14-10) at Carolina Hurricanes (30-34-9), 7 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The Washington Capitals may be dealing with some
distractions away from the rink, but that still hasn't affected their play on
Fresh off a stirring victory over one of their fiercest rivals, the Capitals
try to move one step closer to clinching home-ice advantage throughout the
Eastern Conference playoffs in tonight's clash with the Carolina Hurricanes
from the RBC Center.
One day after a few players were interviewed by authorities investigating a
chiropractor with ties to the team who was recently arrested for purchasing
steroids, Washington came through with a 4-3 shootout win over the reigning
Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins last night to extend its comfortable
lead atop the Eastern Conference. The Caps now have a league-best 108 points
on the season, 17 more than Pittsburgh in the race for the top spot.
After failing to hold onto a 3-2 lead late in the third period, Washington
scored three times in the shootout to improve to 4-0-1 over its last five
games. Alexander Semin scored in the third round to keep the Capitals alive,
and after goaltender Jose Theodore made a save on the Pens' Chris Kunitz, Mike
Knuble gave Washington the two points when he fired a shot over Pittsburgh
netminder Marc-Andre Fleury.
Washington trailed 2-1 after two periods before moving in front on goals by
Semin and Eric Fehr that came two minutes apart in the third. Theodore did his
part as well, stopping 39-of-42 shots between regulation and overtime.
According to the Washington Post, Fehr was one of three Capitals -- along with
forward Matt Bradley and defenseman Shaone Morrisonn -- who spoke to law
enforcement officials regarding Dr. Douglas Owen Nagel, arrested in Virginia
on Tuesday for possessing performance-enhancing drugs. The three players had
been patients of Nagel, although the report stated there was no evidence that
the chiropractor distributed steroids to any member of the team.
As for last night's game, the victory enabled Washington to match a franchise-
best for points in a season set in 2008-09. The Capitals are also in a
position to possibly clinch the East's No. 1 seed, needing a win over the
Hurricanes coupled with a New Jersey loss to the New York Rangers tonight to
accomplish the feat. The Devils trail Pittsburgh by one point at the moment,
but have two games in hand on the Penguins.
Washington will play this evening's test without the services of forward
Brooks Laich, who'll sit out a second straight night after being struck in the
face with a puck during a practice session on Tuesday. The 24-goal scorer is
riding a six-game point streak in which he's notched four goals and four
Carolina enters tonight's matchup having lost two straight and four of its
last six games to further weaken the club's already-remote playoff chances.
The Hurricanes did hand the Capitals a 4-3 overtime defeat in Raleigh on March
18, however, with Ray Whitney coming up with the game-winning goal with less
than a minute left in extra time.
The Hurricanes were also taken to overtime in their last outing, but came out
on a short side of a 3-2 decision at Tampa Bay after the Lightning's Martin
St. Louis scored just 29 seconds into the deciding phase.
Carolina had claimed a 2-1 lead on second-period goals by Erik Cole and Chad
LaRose, but Tampa's Steve Downie scored on the power play with 6:57 left in
the third to force overtime.
"For the most part I thought we did a pretty decent job of keeping some pretty
explosive players off the board," Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice said. "But at
the end of the day it's a 1-on-1 play and we needed to have it," referring to
St. Louis' tally.
Washington has gone 3-1-1 against the Hurricanes this season, but has lost in
three of its last four visits to the RBC Center.
03/25 10:49:36 ET