The Washington Capitals are in good shape approximately one quarter of the way through the schedule.
The Carolina Hurricanes have been even better.
The teams meet Sunday afternoon in Raleigh, N.C.
“There are moments you have to carry with you and it creates a little bit of belief,” Hurricanes forward Sebastian Aho said.
This will be the Hurricanes’ first home game in more than two weeks following a six-game road trip. They went 4-1-1 in those games, including a 6-3 win at Philadelphia on Friday afternoon.
“It feels like we’ve been on the road forever,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said.
The Capitals and Hurricanes, who are the top two teams in the Metropolitan Division, each have just three regulation losses. The Hurricanes have taken that to another level.
By reaching 15 wins in 19 games (15-3-1), Carolina became the fourth-fastest climb to the 15-win level in the NHL in the past 20 years, according to the league.
“We have some talent, for sure,” Brind’Amour said.
There are so many plots for this first Capitals-Hurricanes meeting of the season.
For starters, Capitals coach Peter Laviolette returns to Raleigh, where he guided the Hurricanes to the 2006 Stanley Cup. That team was captained by Brind’Amour.
The Hurricanes eliminated the Capitals in a stunning first-round upset in a seven-game series in 2019, which was the last time the NHL postseason was held in a traditional set-up.
Captain Alex Ovechkin is coming off a game Friday night when he posted a hat trick against the Florida Panthers.
“He is delivering a lot of offense with the way he is playing the game,” Laviolette said.
Ovechkin has 273 career power-play goals, one shy of all-time NHL leader Dave Andreychuk.
Playing the Panthers in a fast-paced game was one thing. That might look mild compared to the matchup with Carolina.
“The next one will be a quicker game,” Laviolette said. “This is a great opportunity to play teams that are at the top or in our division.”
The Capitals have won their past two games, including a 4-3 home showdown with the Florida Panthers on Friday. Washington players like how they’ve been challenged.
“We’ve played some pretty good teams, and we’re right there,” Capitals right winger Tom Wilson said. “We just want to keep pushing forward. It’s been great to see, and I’ve been saying it for the last month or so.”
The Washington lineup is still a work in progress because of the absence of some players because of injuries.
“We’d like to get our guys back and see where the lineup goes from there,” Laviolette said.
Brind’Amour said there are elements that need to be addressed. He said the team’s first bad game on power plays came Friday in Philadelphia.
“It’s great when you can win 6-3 and say your power play stunk,” Brind’Amour said.
Carolina goalies Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta each played in three games on the road trip.
Washington has scored more than two goals in just three of eight road games this month.
–Field Level Media