HURRICANES (1-1-1) at CAPITALS (1-2-0)
TV: SPSO, CSN-DC
Season series: This is the first meeting between the two Southeast Division imports in the new Metropolitan Division. The Capitals won four of five meetings between the two teams last season, including the final three. When Carolina defeated Washington on March 12, the Hurricanes led the Southeast and held a 10-point lead on the Capitals. Washington won the next meeting to begin a 17-4-2 run to end the season, propelling them to the division title. The Capitals finished 15 points ahead of the Hurricanes.
Big story: Both teams are coming off a loss and have had some problems on offense. Carolina has two goals in each of its three games. Washington is finding it hard to score when the team's dangerous power-play unit is not on the ice.
Hurricanes: Carolina needed more scoring depth after the top line carried the offense last season. Newcomers Nathan Gerbe and Radek Dvorak have done their part, and they have four of the team's six goals to this point.
The two guys who starred on Eric Staal's line in 2012-13, Alexander Semin and Jiri Tlusty, have zero points between them and have combined for just six shots on goal. The two guys being counted on to provide high-level secondary scoring, Jordan Staal and Jeff Skinner, are goalless in three games but have generated opportunities, combining for 19 shots on goal. Skinner also has a team-high three assists.
Capitals: Washington had the best power play in the League in 2012-13, and it has been even better in a small sample to start this campaign. The Capitals have six power-play goals in three games, and Alex Ovechkin has a League-best three of them.
The issue for the Capitals has been at even strength, where the team has scored only three times. The only player who has scored for the club who doesn't see time on the No. 1 power-play unit is 19-year-old rookie defenseman Connor Carrick. The team's defense and goaltending haven't been very good either (starter Braden Holtby has an .849 save percentage), and the disparity at even strength is the biggest culprit.
Who's hot: Gerbe has two goals in three games for the Hurricanes. It took him 17 games to score twice for the Buffalo Sabres last season. For the Capitals, Ovechkin and Mikhail Grabovski have combined for 11 points, which is the third-highest scoring duo in the League behind Henrik and Daniel Sedin in Vancouver and Tomas Hertl and Joe Pavelski in San Jose.
Injury update: Carolina defenseman Joni Pitkanen (fractured heel) is out for the season. Defenseman Tim Gleason (concussion) and forward Tuomo Ruutu (lower body) are not expected to play against the Capitals. Washington defenseman Jack Hillen could miss several months after a right leg injury in the season opener.
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