Friday, December 11, 2009

Looking Into The Eye of A Storm; Caps vs Hurricanes, 12/11/2009

I'll be watching the game from the comfort of my recliner here in Bristow; a colleague from work, Bob and his daughter will be in Section 103. Apparently Bob's daughter really, really wanted to go and since I didn't have a person to go with me and hockey is just soo much better to watch when you are with someone, I had no problem selling my tix to him. Enjoy the game Bob and I hope the Capitals are as much a source of quality time with your daughter for you as they have been for me with my son in the past. Now let's look at the game ahead...

Well looking at the Carolina Hurricanes is like looking into the eye of a storm indeed; and not so much in a good way as you would have expected after the way they finished out the playoffs last season. Everybody who regularly reads this blog knows the deal and facts, but for some reason I'm deriving perverse enjoyment writing them here. Perhaps there really might be a bit of a rivalry here - a Southeast Division rivalry? C'mon, can't be, can it? Well not really so far this season, because the Hurricanes aren't holding up their end of the deal right now. Forget the division standings, forget the conference standings, let's just look at the league standings overall. As of today and in spite of loosing their last game to the Buffalo Sabres the Washington Capitals are in first place in the overall league standings; the Carolina Hurricanes re in thirtieth (30th). In case your memory needs refreshing, that would be last place as there are 30 teams in the league, in spite of Jim Balsille's desires and wants otherwise. In case you want to look at that a little while here's a link that's fun to gaze at right now.

As division "rivals" the Caps and 'Canes will play each other six times this season, this is the second meeting of the six scheduled. The Caps faced off against the Hurricanes for their first meeting of the season in Raleigh on Monday, November 30th. The Caps won that game by a score of 3-2 in regulation. Unlike the last time these two teams met, Hurricanes star goaltender Cam Ward is likely to be back in the nets. Ward returned from a leg laceration of his own that cost him 13 games and played a solid game against the New Jersey Devils in New Jersey on Wednesday evening even though the Hurricanes lost 4-2. It's unclear who will get the start for Carolina tonight as it is the first of a two game back - to - back for the 'Canes. They face the Ottawa Senators in Ottawa tomorrow evening. However, if I had to bet on it, I'd bet that Ward will be in the nets tonight and perhaps tomorrow as well. Tonight's game is the first of two meetings this month for these two teams - both of December's games are in DC, then they won't see each other again until March when they meet three times. The Hurricanes are hoping that winning their first road game of the season in Pittsburgh on Monday evening is a sign that things are turning around in "Canes country; that 3-2 win against the Penguins certainly means the Hurricanes have the ability to take on anyone and so shouldn't be taken lightly even though the Capitals lead them by 25 points (in baseball speak that's 12 full games since the Hurricanes currently have a game in hand) in the standings.

Players to watch:

Carolina: Ray Whitney has been relatively hot of late - he had two goals and five points in the two games leading up to Wednesday night. Eric Staal, who looks like he may be "heating up" as even though he has just three goals this season, he had three straight two-assist efforts until he was also held scoreless in New Jersey. Of course there's also Cam Ward, Ward has been a thorn in the Capitals sides in the past. He is 12-5-2 with three shutouts, a 2.54 GAA and a .920 save pct. lifetime against the Capitals. However, the Carolina netminder is only a very human 4-4-1 with a 3.18 GAA and a .905 save pct. in 10 career starts at Verizon Center. Also with Joe Corvo out, there's Joni Pitkanen. Pitkanen has five assists in the three games since the Hurricanes met the Caps. He also leads all NHL defensemen in time-on-ice per shift (1:00/shift), and he has logged more than 30 minutes of ice time four times this year, including two of his last four games.

Washington: The usual list of suspects should appear here as all of them will want to bounce back after being held scoreless in Buffalo by Ryan Miller's awesome performance. They won't want to let Ward get out in front of them like Miller did, so look for all the Young Guns to come out hard and fast. I also expect to see the second line of Brooks Laich - B-Mo - Eric Fehr to have a solid night. It's unclear to me who will get the start for the Capitals Neuvirth or Theodore. Personally I hope it's Theo and I look for him to have a solid outing.

Sick and Injured Reports;

Carolina: Key minute muncher defenseman Joe Corvo is currently out. The Hurricanes lost defenseman Corvo to a laceration to his leg; he underwent surgery and is expected to miss several months. In addition to Corvo, the Hurricanes are likely to also be without the services of defenseman Niclas Wallin tonight due to an upper-body injury; he is listed by the Hurricanes as day-to-day.

The Capitals injury list is longer than the Hurricanes but on the positive side of that list, they expect to have forwards Mike Knuble and Matt Bradley back in their lineup on Friday. Knuble missed the last 13 games with a broken finger and Bradley missed the last pair of games while his wife gave birth to their first child. To make room for Knuble and Bradley, forwards Alexandre Giroux and Keith Aucoin were reassigned to Hershey yesterday. The list of Capitals currently out of the lineup tonight are: Semyon Varlamov, Boyd Gordon, Quintin Laing, Matthieu Perrault and Brian Pothier.

In spite of the improving trend for the Hurricanes and the return of Cam Ward look for the Capitals to bounce back from the loss to the Sabres and "capitalize" on this short visit home before next week's West Coast road trip. I could do a set of numerical, statistical comparisons but suffice it to say that was already well covered by Peerless (here's the link) and the only category the Capitals aren't in front of the 'Canes is the PK unit. On the penalty kill the Hurricanes are 17th in the league with a 80.0% and the Caps are 19th with a 79.2%.

Caps 4 - Hurricanes 2.


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