The Washington Capitals take on Southeast Division rival Carolina in a little over an hour, and tonight's game has a much different feel then their last meeting.
On December 28, the Hurricanes were one of the worst team's in the league while the Capitals were coming off a 4-1 win over the then Eastern Conference leading New Jersey Devils. Just hours before that game, Capitlas General Manager George McPhee pulled the trigger on a trade that sent then Captain Chris Clark, and Milan Jurcina to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Jason Chimera.
Carolina jumped out to a 3-0 first period lead and didn't look back in beating the Caps 6-3. That was the last time the Capitals tasted defeat in regulation on home ice. Carolina enters tonight's game as the hottest team in the league as they have won eight of their last 10 and 17 of their last 25.
The Capitals are coming off a 4-3 shootout loss on Monday night to the Dallas Stars. The Capitals gave up a 2-0 lead in the third period, but managed to send the game to overtime thanks to a late goal by Alex Ovechkin.
Ovechkin's two goals snapped his six game goal-scoring drought and put himself back into a tie for the league lead in goals (44) with the Penguins Sidney Crosby.
Here are the forward lines for the Caps tonight:
Jason Chimera and Eric Fehr will sit tonight for the Capitals.
Jose Theodore, who has a 12-0-2 mark in his last 14 starts and a .981 save percentage gets the start in goal tonight.
Here are several more notes to keep in mind as you watch tonight's game:
NOTE OF THE NIGHT
Home wreckers – Carolina was the last team to defeat the Capitals in regulation at home, 6-3 on Dec. 28. Washington has the best home record in the league at 25-3-4 and had a franchise record 13-game home winning streak snapped Wednesday night. The Caps are 75-20-10 at home under head coach Bruce Boudreau.
FIVE MORE NOTES NO MEDIA PERSON SHOULD BE WITHOUT
Pass to the right guys – The Capitals and Hurricanes completed two trades on March 3, sending Joe Corvo and Scott Walker to D.C. and Brian Pothier to Carolina. Wednesday night marks the first time each player will face his former teammates.
Double trouble – The fifth game of Bruce Boudreau’s NHL coaching career (11/30/07 at Carolina) was the last time Alex Ovechkin scored two or more goals and the Capitals lost in regulation. The Caps are 32-0-3 since then when Ovechkin has a multiple-goal game. Monday was his 12th multiple-goal game of this season as he snapped a stretch of six games without a goal.
Blank stare – Jose Theodore recorded his first shutout of the season, his third as a Capital and the 29th of his career with a 30-save effort Saturday against the New York Rangers. Theodore has stopped 53 of 54 shots in two starts since the Olympic break (.981) and is 12-0-2 with a 2.38 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage since Jan. 13.
Shots, clocked – Washington’s 52 shots on goal against Dallas Monday night were a season high and tied for the third-most in franchise history (most since firing 55 shots in a 3-2 loss to Florida Dec. 18, 2005). The Caps had 23 shots in the second period, their most in a period this year. Despite the shots, the Capitals –whose 11.8% shooting percentage on the season leads the league –scored only three goals (5.8%).
Goal oriented – The Capitals lead the NHL with 256 goals, 47 more (or 22% more) than the next-closest team (not counting shootout “goals” reflected in the standings). It’s the largest gap between the top two offensive teams since 1992-93, when Detroit led the league in scoring by 50 goals.
Washington leads the league in goals per game (3.88), even-strength goals (188), power-play goals (65), home goals (127), road goals (129), first-period goals (75), second-period goals (85) and third-period goals (93). Even if you take away their league-leading power play, the Caps would still rank ninth in the league with 191 goals (entering Tuesday’s games). At their current pace the Capitals would finish as the highest scoring team since the 1995-96 Pittsburgh Penguins.