Is there a better team in the NHL now than the Washington Capitals?
The Canes, in their final game before the Christmas break, will host the Caps on Monday at PNC Arena, facing a team with a five-game winning streak, one coming off a 7-3 thrashing of the New York Rangers in Madison Square Garden. The Caps have a 24-6-2 overall record and are 11-3-1 on the road.
“They’re 12-1-1 in their last 14,” Canes coach Bill Peters said Monday. “They’ve scored a lot of goals here recently, so they’re dialed in. It didn’t take long to do the pre-scout because they’re that dialed in.”
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The game against the Rangers marked the third time this season the Caps have scored seven goals. The Caps, third in the league in scoring at 3.16 goals a game, had two power-play goals and a shorthanded goal by Jason Chimera against the Rangers.
The Canes (13-15-5) have scored power-play goals in seven of the past eight games (10-for-27), scoring twice Saturday against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2-1 victory at Consol Energy Center. Carolina has moved to a tie for 16th in the NHL at 18.3 percent — the Caps are second at 26.2 percent.
“Their power play is lethal,” Peters said. “It’s absolutely lethal, so we’ve got to be disciplined. Our power play has been good here, too. … but we don’t want to get into a situation where we have to keep up to them. We want to play five-on-five and have the puck and have a lot of poise during our shifts.”
The Canes’ lines Monday at the morning skate had Eric Staal centering Kris Versteeg and Elias Lindholm, Jordan Staal at center with Joakim Nordstrom and Andrej Nestrasil, Victor Rask with Jeff Skinner and Phil Di Giuseppe and Jay McClement with Brad Malone and Chris Terry, with Riley Nash rotating in.
The defensive pairs were John-Michael Liles-Justin Faulk, Ron Hainsey-Jaccob Slavin and Noah Hanifin-Brett Pesce. Michal Jordan, recalled Monday from the Charlotte Checkers (AHL), was the extra.
Cam Ward, coming off a 37-save performance against the Pens, will be the starting goalie.
The Caps are 17-1 when scoring first, 10-0 when leading after the first period and 16-0 leading after two. They’re also 18-0 when leading with 10 minutes left in regulation and are 52-1-4 under coach Barry Trotz when leading with 10 minutes left.
Peters said the Canes can’t play it defensively against the Caps, chipping and chasing, saying, “I want to attack them as much as they attack us.”