Washington begins a rough stretch of its schedule Wednesday night when the Hurricanes return from a brutal trip to play their first game at RBC Center this season.
After leading the NHL with 3.8 goals per game and a power-play percentage of 25.2 in 2009-10, the Capitals (5-3-0) are nowhere near the top in either category, averaging 2.9 goals while converting 12.1 percent with the man advantage.
“If you looked at what the question marks were (coming into the season), it was penalty killing and goaltending,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “… The part nobody bothered to say anything about was scoring and power play and that hasn’t been up to what we believe is par.”
Even Alex Ovechkin(notes) has struggled to find the back of the net, going four straight games without a goal and three without a point. He has yet to score on the power play after doing so 13 times last season.
The last time Ovechkin went four consecutive games without recording a point was Feb. 15-21, 2007.
The Capitals’ captain, who has 11 goals in 17 games at Carolina but none in his last four visits, will try to get the club’s offense on track as it opens a stretch of three games in four nights.
“It’s going to be a tough trip, but everyone has them,” Boudreau said. “… I looked at what Carolina just went through - that was a tough trip.”
After opening the season in Helsinki with two victories over Minnesota and a 10-day trip that ended with Saturday’s 4-3 overtime victory against Phoenix, the Hurricanes (4-3-0) are feeling good as they have put 11,000 miles of travel behind them.
Every other NHL team has played at least three home games.
“I think that coming off a road trip that was very difficult … and having as much or more confidence in yourself than when you left, I think we’re happy about that,” coach Paul Maurice said.
Playing six of their next nine at RBC Center, the Hurricanes will try to use the same combination of balanced scoring - Eric Staal(notes) leads the club with three goals - and solid goaltending from Cam Ward(notes) to start building a home-ice advantage.
Ward, who has a 2.78 goals-against average while starting all but one game this season, will likely be in net Wednesday. He is 7-1-1 with a 1.99 GAA in nine home starts against Washington.
In his only game against Carolina, Neuvirth lost 5-2 in the nation’s capital March 3, 2009.
Washington has dropped nine of 12 at the RBC Center.