Caps face Hurricanes before long layoff
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RALEIGH, N.C. -- The Washington Capitals don't have any reason to hold back in their Tuesday night game against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena.
It will be the only game of the week for the Capitals.
A slate that has big fluctuations is approaching.
"I look at January's schedule," Washington coach Barry Trotz said. "It's a week-to-week schedule. This week we've got one game. ... It's sort of choppy."
This assignment comes against a Carolina team with a six-game, home-ice winning streak.
The Capitals (24-13-3) have gathered at least one point in 12 of their past 14 games while rising to the top of the Metropolitan Division. They probably don't need a layoff the way things have been going, but Trotz said it provides a chance to be wise with the lineup regarding players with ailments.
"We've got a break here," Trotz said of the importance of keeping players fresh and healthy. "When guys are playing a lot of minutes, it takes away some of their sharpness."
After this week, the Capitals will have four games in six days next week followed by a five-day layoff.
The Hurricanes (18-13-7) had a season-best four-game winning streak snapped Saturday night with a 3-2 loss in St. Louis. That doesn't diminish the headway that the team has made the past few weeks.
"It's exciting," coach Bill Peters said of the Tuesday contest, the Hurricanes' first meeting of the season with Washington. "Let's get off to a good start. Our guys are well aware of the standings in the Metro and who we play and who we don't play."
Carolina and Washington meet three times in an 11-day span.
The Capitals have sputtered some on the road recently, going 0-1-2 in their past three road outings.
Trotz, who became the NHL's fifth-winningest coach all-time with his latest victory, No. 737, said the Hurricanes look like a confident team.
"They're playing really well. Their expectations, there is a little bit of weight that comes in with those expectations," Trotz said. "Right now, I think they've found a little bit of a comfort zone with the way they're playing, their lines and their pairings and all that."
Goalie Cam Ward has won his last six decisions for the Hurricanes, though he was the backup on Saturday.
The Capitals are expecting to see Ward in net.
"He has (got) a little bit hot for them, and they've got hot at the same time," Trotz said.
Since returning to the lineup from an injury, right winger T.J. Oshie has only one point in six games for the Capitals.
"I think Osh can be a little better than he has," Trotz said. "He has been at a high level for so long. ... He'll respond. He's too good of player. He's an all-in guy."
For Carolina, with center Marcus Kruger out the past two games with a lower-body injury, the Hurricanes were forced to make adjustments.
"We have to go deeper into our penalty killers," Peters said. "Let's be real disciplined, real intelligent in how we play so when we do have to kill penalties it's for a good reason."
Carolina center Lucas Wallmark scored a goal against St. Louis in his season debut.
Peters said defenseman Haydn Fleury could be back in the lineup after being a healthy scratch for the past five games.
The Hurricanes play only two home games in the first 13 days of January, both against the Capitals. Carolina heads on the road for four games after the Tuesday night matchup.
Updated January 2, 2018