Disappointed Canes, Caps to play

04/10/2014 1:24 PM

04/10/2014 1:25 PM

Canes coach Kirk Muller decided against having a morning skate Thursday at PNC Arena.

The Washington Capitals did have one, but appeared to be moving at half-speed through much of it.

So it goes after teams are eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoff mix. The Canes' playoff chances ended with their 4-1 loss Tuesday against the New York Rangers. For the Caps, it came Wednesday when Detroit earned a point in a shootout loss and the Columbus Blue Jackets picked up two points with a win.

In theory, at least, the Canes (34-34-11) should have more incentive for Thursday's game. They are playing their final home game and would like to have a good performance for their fans at the end of what now is a disappointing season.

"It is important because of the fans," Muller said Thursday. "These last three games, you always want to do your best. We owe it to our fans to end it on a good note."

Muller said Anton Khudobin would be in net and said forward Jiri Tlusty, out the past four games with an upper-body injury, would be able to return. Tlusty could be on a line with Eric Staal and Alex Semin, although Muller said he would experiment with the lines during the game.

Defenseman Andrej Sekera will miss his fourth straight game with a lower-body injury. Muller indicated Sekera's availability for the final two games -- at Detroit and Philadelphia -- also is uncertain.

The Canes made one personnel move Thursday, reassigning defenseman Ryan Murphy to the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL.

Khudobin ranks second in the NHL in save percentage (.931) and seventh in goals-against average (2.14), and he has a chance to set franchise records in both categories this season. In 34 appearances this season, he has allowed more than three goals only once.

"He's had an incredible year," Muller said. "Coming in new, trying to earn a spot … he's been pretty darn consistent.

"What we really like him, other than the results, is if you watch him in practice he's our hardest-working guy. He challenges players every day to score on him. He spends extra time on the ice. Because of that work ethic that's a big reason he has had the success this year."

Braden Holtby is expected to be the starting goalie for the Caps (36-30-13), who have won their last two games but missed out on the playoffs for the first time since the 2006-2007 season.

Canes beat writer Chip Alexander

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