Monday, March 31, 2008

Hurricanes/Capitals Preview

Carolina Hurricanes at Washington Capitals
Tuesday, April 1st, 2008, 7:00 PM
Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.

Last Meeting: 3/26/08, Caps win 3-2 in the shootout

To call this one the biggest game of the season would be an understatement - this is biggest game this franchise has played in almost five years; the biggest since Martin St. Louis broke the hearts of Caps fans with an powerplay game winner in the third overtime at MCI Center on Easter Sunday, 2003, the result of a too many men on the ice call. A win Tuesday night would put the Capitals into a tie (points-wise) with Carolina for first in the Southeast Division, while a loss would all but extinguish the team's already somewhat dim playoffs hopes. If the Capitals have proven anything this season it's that they're never down and out, and are at their best when their backs are against the wall. Do they have one more great win in them?

About the Opponent

Carolina Hurricanes: 42-31-6, 90 points, 1st in the Southeast Division, 3rd in the Eastern Conference

Team Leaders
Goals: Eric Staal (36)
Assists: Eric Staal (43)
Points: Eric Staal (79)
Plus/Minus: Joe Corvo (+19)
Penalty Minutes: Scott Walker (113)
Fights: Wade Brookbank (12)

Keys to the Game

Play your game. The Capitals are 32-17-7 under Bruce Boudreau and have won eight of their last nine. In short, the team knows how to play hockey and win games at the NHL level. What they need to do is not let the pressure of this game get to them and start changing the way they play.

Score early. Cam Ward's confidence against the Capitals has got to be high, so if the Hurricanes can get an early lead and concentrate on playing defense it might be hard for the Capitals to battle back.

Players to Watch

John Erskine - Carolina has a lot of good forwards and most of them are very good skaters while not. Due to his lack of foot speed and agility, Erskine is probably the best blue line target for the Hurricanes when they're trying to create chances.

Cam Ward - Ward's been a little inconsistent this season, but he's 5-0-1 against the Caps with a .950 save percentage. For Washington to win this one in regulation, they'll need to do a better job of solving Ward.

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