The Carolina Hurricanes have won their last seven games on home ice and the Washington Capitals have a five-game winning streak, so something has to give Friday at PNC Arena.
The Canes (12-11-6) are coming off their wild 8-6 win Tuesday over the Vancouver Canucks, scoring six times in the third period. That same night, the Caps (18-7-3) were beating the New York Islanders 4-2 in Brooklyn, following up a 3-0 win over the Canucks.
The Caps are 9-3-2 since a 5-1 loss to the Canes on Nov. 12 at PNC Arena. That was the start of the Canes’ winning streak at home and arguably the Caps’ worst loss of the season.
“Last time we were here we turned way too many pucks over, especially on the back end,” Caps coach Barry Trotz said Friday after the morning skate at Raleigh Center Ice. “Our wall play wasn’t very good.”
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Trotz then offered up a quick scouting report on the Canes:
“They’re a real good transition team. They’re all about pressure. They come at you really hard. They have lots of team speed. Real good on the rush. They do a lot of lateral plays in the offensive zone.
“For a young group, you can tell they’re really hungry around the net, so they make those little plays around the net, those quick transitional things. And they’ve got active D. They get up ice off the attack and they’re active in the zone.
“They keep you aware and busy and they’re well-coached. They have good structure with (coach) Billy (Peters). He’s always had that with his teams. We just have to make sure we’re on top of our game.”
The Caps’ last game at PNC Arena was the second of a back-to-back that had them playing the Chicago Blackhawks on the road the night before, then arriving late in Raleigh that night.
“We weren’t very sharp last time we were here,” Trotz said. “A little bit of a late night. I think the schedule got us a little bit. There are no excuses tonight. We’ve got to be a lot better tonight.”
Goalie Philipp Grubauer will get another shot at the Canes after taking the loss Nov. 12, when Trotz said the Caps “sort of left him to the wolves.”
Grubauer allowed four goals on 37 shots. He has given up four goals on 88 shots in his three starts since Nov. 12 and is 4-1-1 with a 1.67 goals-against average for the season.
Cam Ward will start in net for the Canes, who did not have a morning skate Friday. No lineup changes from Tuesday’s game are expected.
“We’re going to be aggressive and push the pace,” Peters said Thursday.
Another key matchup, a game within the game, could be the Canes’ penalty killers vs the Washington power play. The Canes are No. 1 in the NHL on the kill (92.3 percent) and have killed off the past 20 penalties. The Caps, in turn, have a power-play goal in five of their past six games and 12 in their past 13 games — Washington is 11-1-1 this season when getting a power-play goal.
“The specialty teams are on fire, both ways,” Peters said.