Despite a solid effort and the Capitals physical game waking up from a seemingly season long slumber, the result was the same and the Caps were outdone by the Flyers 1-0. A night and day difference in terms of effort from the game before against New Jersey, the Caps still couldn't dent the twine. 2 game losing streaks for a team outside the playoffs this time of year can be crushing, and this is no different than usual. With the Caps losses and the Winnipeg Jets and Florida Panthers wins the Caps are now in 9th with 69 points, 3 points behind Winnipeg for the 8th and final playoff spot and 5 points behind Florida for the Southeast Division lead. With 2 games left in this late season home-stand for the Caps something has to change.
Tonight the Capitals welcome a team that they haven't scored on in 2 games, the 14th place Carolina Hurricanes. The Canes bring with them a load of talent up front, on the blue-line, and in the net. Up front they're led by their captain Eric Staal who has a pair of multi-goal games against the Caps this year. Other notable veteran forwards are Jussi Jokinen, and Chad LaRose 2 smaller quicker players and Tuomo Ruutu more of a bruising power forward type. The Canes are also stock piled with young threats up front in players like Jiri Tlusty, Brandon Sutter, Drayson Bowman, and Jeff Skinner showing that the Canes should be and are a team on the rise who will be good for years to come. Along the blue-line the Canes have a great rookie in 19 year old Justin Faulk and a speedy vet by the name of Tim Gleason. The most worrisome if you're a Capitals player or fan hoping to see a goal tonight is Canes goalie Cam Ward. Ward carried the Canes to a Stanley Cup title in 06 and won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP.
The Capitals will remain pretty much the same as they've been with one new change tonight. Mike Knuble will be back to being a healthy scratch tonight and Keith Aucoin will return to the lineup. John Erskine and Roman Hamrlik remain mvp candidates on the Capitals healthy scratch team as they'll be missing in action again. Goaltender Tomas Vokoun had missed a couple days of practice with a lower body injury and the Capitals called Braden Holtby up from Hershey but, Vokoun is feeling good again and Holtby was sent back down to the AHL. For the Caps tonight represents another must win scenario, if you lose to the 14th place team in your conference at your house, you ARE NOT a playoff contender.
The goal-tending match-up tonight will see Carolina go with Cam Ward who has a career record vs the Caps of 15-10-4 with a goals against average of 2.52 and a save percentage of .921. Washington will send Michal Neuvirth to the net for a 6th straight start, Neuvirth has a career record of 3-1 vs Carolina with a goals against average of 2.43 and a save percentage of .919. This is the same goal-tending match-up as the November 4th gamer the Capitals won 5-1, lets hope history repeats itself tonight.
PLAYERS TO WATCH TONIGHT:
Eric Staal C, Carolina = I really went out on a limb here choosing a guy with 4 goals in 5 games against the Caps this year. If the Capitals can't find a way to shut down Staal this is gonna be another long painful night for Caps fans.
Alexander Semin LW, Washington = Semin has had good success against Cam Ward in his career and the Capitals will need him to break the scoreless streak for them tonight, multiple times!