The Pregame: Capitals Host Hurricanes After Christmas Break

Hope you had a Merry Christmas or Capsmas and fantastic holiday Caps fans. Your Washington Capitals resume their chase towards back to back on Thursday night against the Carolina Hurricanes. Let’s take a look at the matchup and catch you up on what’s happened with these teams lately. Puck drop from Capital One Arena is at 7 p.m. and you can catch the game on NBC Sports Washington 

The Capitals will welcome the Hurricanes to Washington for the first time this season although it is the second meeting between the two clubs thus far. Both teams met on Dec. 14 in Raleigh in a game that saw the Caps rally from a 4-1 deficit to win 6-4.

BEHIND ENEMY LINES:

Canes:

The Carolina Hurricanes have struggled a bit lately winning just four of their last 13 games (4-7-2) after winning four of their first five games to start the season. The Hurricanes enter Thursday with a 15-15-5 record, good for 35 points and sixth place in the Metropolitan Division. They recently had a five-game homestand going 2-2-1. That number one to the right was the shootout loss to the Capitals nearly two weeks ago.

In their final home game before the holiday break, the team traded jerseys to sport their ancestors. It was Hartford Whalers night where Hurricanes players sported those light green and blue uniforms to pay tribute to the beginning of the franchise that started out play in the World Hockey Association. They eventually merged into and joined the NHL in the 1979-80 season and fittingly enough, they took on the Boston Bruins rekindling an old rivalry. That game saw the Hurricanes rally from two goals down to win 5-3.

The Hurricanes will look for revenge Thursday night and although they’ll take on the defending Stanley Cup champs, the Canes won both matchups at Capital One Arena last season outscoring the Caps 7-2 combined in those games.

CAPS:

The Capitals headed into Christmas on fire. They won their final game heading into the break which was a 4-0 shutout win over the Ottawa Senators as well as a big win the night before in D.C. over the Buffalo Sabres by a final count of 2-1, their second win against the Sabres in six days. The Caps have swept their last three sets of back-to-back games and per Mike Vogel, that’s the first time they’ve done so in 27 years. Back in November of 1991 was the last time.

In that 4-0 win over the Senators, four different Capitals players found the back of the net: Brett Connolly, Matt Niskanen, Jakub Vrana, and Michal Kempny while Pheonix Copley pitched a shutout stopping all 35 of the shots he faced. The Caps and Sens meet again this Saturday in Ottawa for the second week in a row.

After a tough loss to the Vegas Golden Knights, the Capitals have won seven of their last eight games as well as 14 of their last 17.

While all of these are strengths, the Capitals need more improvement on the power play. In their last nine games, the Caps have scored a power play goal in just two of them.

Alex Ovechkin will look be the first player in the NHL this season to hit the 30-goal mark. He’s been on a tear lately and just two weeks ago he had two consecutive games with a hat trick. Ovechkin will be playing in his 101st game of the 2018 calendar year (regular season and playoffs) and no player in the league has more points (116) or goals (69) in 2018. His 69 goals this year is not only nice but 15 goals more than Patrik Laine of the Jets.

MILESTONE WATCH:

Evgeny Kuznetsov needs just three more points for 300 in his career.

Throwback Thursday:

The beginning of the “Rock the Red” era came in the form of a Red-Out near the tail end of the 2007-08 season, the third to last game as a young Alex Ovechkin was on a mission to lead the Capitals to the playoffs for the first time. That was a big win that helped the Capitals win the Southeast Division in the regular season finale, setting up a first round playoff matchup with the Philadelphia Flyers. The Caps defeated the Canes 4-1.

Bruce Boudreau led the Capitals since taking on the job on Thanksgiving Day that season after Glen Hanlon was relieved of his duties the night before after the team lost 5-1 to the Atlanta Thrashers (now Winnipeg Jets) to drop their record to 6-14-1, the worst record in the NHL. It was a remarkable comeback as the Caps caught the Hurricanes, who spent much of that season in first place. Ovechkin went on to score 65 goals and capture his first career Hart Trophy as the league’s most valuable player.

Again, puck drop from Washington is at 7 p.m.

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