The Washington Capitals have a plan, or several of them, when it comes to playing on back-to-back nights.
That’s the case again for the team with the best record in the NHL when they visit the Carolina Hurricanes for a Saturday night affair at PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C.
Both teams played Friday night, and the back-to-backs seem more pressing when they come immediately following the holiday break.
“We’ve had some sickness going on,” Capitals coach Todd Reirden told reporters Friday about his team’s lineup. He added the plan is to go with goaltender Braden Holtby against the Hurricanes after Ilya Samsonov made 27 saves in a 2-1 overtime win over visiting Columbus on Friday night.
Those types of decisions evolve as the coaching staff assesses the various situations.
“You’ve got to try to be creative with it and make some decisions on how to use people,” Reirden said. “In an ideal world, why we’ve been to have the success we’ve had in back-to-back, we’ve been able to limit minutes and change goaltenders … and been able to utilize players in certain situations. … We’ll see how our guys respond.”
The Hurricanes have lost three games in a row after Friday night’s 5-3 setback against the Rangers in New York. They’ll welcome a Washington team that often sees opponents trying to press the issue with forechecking and knows it has to be ready to respond.
“It’s important we execute some breakout opportunities,” Reirden said.
Carolina is playing its seventh set of back-to-back games this season, and is 3-3-0 on the back side of those so far.
Not all losses have been the same for the Hurricanes.
“I’d take those games the way we played those games for the most part,” coach Rod Brind’Amour said of most of the losses. “(When you) let off, that’s the result you get.”
The Hurricanes had a seven-game point streak before this three-game slide. During the past three games, Carolina has allowed a total of 17 goals — rendering moot the team’s 11 goals scored in that span.
“We’ve learned a tough lesson,” Brind’Amour said. “You’ve got to have 20 guys doing it right.”
Some of the recent breakdowns have come on special teams for Carolina, which has allowed at least one power-play goal in five straight games.
“We’ve got to figure that out and that’s on us,” Carolina defenseman Jaccob Slavin said.
Center Lucas Wallmark holds a five-game point streak for the Hurricanes.
The Capitals and Hurricanes have established a rivalry, something with parts left over from the former Southeast Division.
But it heightened last spring when the Hurricanes upset the Capitals in seven games in the first round of the playoffs. This season, the Hurricanes won 3-2 at Washington in their second game of the season.
This will be only the second home game across a three-week period for the Hurricanes, who’ve often performed better in road outings. In part because of the makeup of the schedule, Carolina has won only one home game in regulation in more than a month.
However, this game marks the launching of a seven-game homestand for Carolina. The Hurricanes won’t be on the road again until Jan. 13 … when they go to Washington.
–Field Level Media