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Thursday, March 22nd (All times eastern)

Washington Capitals (26-35-13) at Carolina Hurricanes (36-29-8), 7 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The well-rested Carolina Hurricanes will return to the ice this evening, when they welcome the Washington Capitals to the RBC Center.

The Hurricanes haven't played since Saturday's lopsided win over the New Jersey Devils. Some things have changed in the Eastern Conference playoff race since then, as Carolina is now tied for the eighth and final seed with Toronto and Montreal. All three teams have 80 points and are just one ahead of the New York Islanders.

Saturday's 7-2 victory at the Meadowlands allowed the Hurricanes to split a home-and-home set with the Devils. Chad LaRose scored twice and Carolina peppered Martin Brodeur early, as the 'Canes skated their way to the blowout win.

Josef Vasicek had a goal and two assists for the Hurricanes, who snapped a five-game skid versus the Devils. Scott Walker, Tim Gleason, Ray Whitney, and Rod Brind'Amour also scored for Carolina, which has won two of its last three games.

John Grahame stopped 18 shots for the Hurricanes and improved to 2-1-1 since No. 1 goaltender Cam Ward suffered a deep cut on his left knee. Ward, who last played on March 11, could have the stitches on his leg removed by this weekend, but it's still unclear when he will actually return to the ice.

Carolina is playing the first of back-to-back home games tonight. The 'Canes are 18-14-4 as the host club this season.

Meanwhile, the Capitals had a two-game win streak halted on Wednesday night, as they dropped a 5-2 decision in Buffalo. Drew Stafford scored a pair of goals to lift the Eastern Conference-leading Sabres to the easy victory.

Donald Brashear and Brian Pothier both lit the lamp for Washington, which was trying to post three straight wins for the first time since January 4-9. Olaf Kolzig allowed five goals on 31 shots in a losing effort.

Washington, which is a dreadful 10-20-6 as the visiting team this year, is playing the middle portion of a three-game road trip tonight. The Capitals have been defeated in five straight and 12 of their last 13 road tests.

This evening's matchup is the final meeting between the Hurricanes and Caps this season. Carolina has taken four of the seven previous encounters this year and seven of the last 10 overall games in this series.

03/22 10:33:11 ET

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