Canes, Caps set for crucial home-and-home

The Washington Capitals are fighting hard to stay in first place in the Metropolitan Division, while the Carolina Hurricanes are battling to hold on to a wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. That's why there's plenty at stake when the two teams meet in Washington on Tuesday night.

Washington (44-24-8, 96 points) held a one-point lead over the Islanders entering Tuesday and was three points up on Pittsburgh, after a 3-1 victory over Philadelphia on Sunday. The win finished the Caps' sweep of the four-game series with the Flyers.

Carolina (42-26-7, 91 points) holds the East's top wild-card spot, three points ahead of Montreal entering Tuesday. The Hurricanes are also just five points behind the Capitals in the division with one game at hand.

Simply put, a Carolina win could make an already-tight Metropolitan Division even tougher to figure out, and the Hurricanes have been playing very good hockey lately, climbing higher in the standings.

"These people deserve to have some fun," Carolina coach Ron Brind'Amour told the media of his team's fans after Sunday's win. "We've had a lot of years here where it wasn't too exciting. They've stuck with us, and I think we're providing an entertaining brand of hockey."

The Capitals have also been entertaining, although they have struggled lately. They lost two in a row, capped by a 2-1 defeat to Minnesota on Friday where the Wild shut down Washington's offense, after the Caps blasted a team-record 58 shots vs. Tampa Bay in a 5-4 overtime loss to the NHL's top team.

But goalie Braden Holtby has been very solid in the second half of the season, and he made 35 saves against Philadelphia to give Washington an important late-season victory.

"You're going to have the nights where maybe you don't have your A-game or whatever's going on," said Washington forward Travis Boyd, who scored once. "If you have a goalie like 1/8Holtby 3/8 who can kind of pick up the slack on those nights, it makes things a lot easier for us."

The Capitals also are figuring out how to deal with the loss of defenseman Michal Kempny, out for what the team calls an indefinite period of time after what appeared to be a leg or knee injury suffered last week.

Carolina is coming in off of a 2-1 overtime victory over Montreal on Sunday, a crucial win to gain extra distance between the teams in the playoff race. A loss would have pushed Montreal one point ahead of the Hurricanes.

Trevor van Riemsdyk tied the game late in the third period before teammate Andrei Svechnikov won it in overtime, giving the No. 2 overall pick 20 goals in his rookie campaign.

This will be the first game of a home-and-home series between the Washington and Carolina, with the second set for Thursday in Carolina.

--Field Level Media
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