Capitals-Hurricanes Preview

The Associated Press

In the midst of a stretch of six games in nine days, the Washington Capitals are hoping to use one of their off days to revitalize themselves.

The Capitals continue a four-game trip Monday night when they take on the Southeast Division rival Carolina Hurricanes.

Washington (29-24-5) will play four games over the next six days after back-to-back 2-1 contests Friday and Saturday to begin this road trip. The Capitals won at Florida before losing to Tampa Bay, and go to Carolina (22-26-11) and Ottawa before they return home.

"I think every team goes through a stretch where they have a lot of games," right wing Troy Brouwer said. "But for us we gotta make sure we're doing the right things, eating the right things, putting the right things in our body, trying to recover the best we can because we have a huge game up in Carolina and looking past that, we have a very important game up in Ottawa.

"We gotta take care of ourselves and be very excited about Carolina."

The Capitals trail the Southeast-leading Panthers and are also behind the Senators in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

Washington rallied from a third-period deficit Friday, but could not come back from two goals down one night later.

"I still thought we competed on back-to-back nights," center Brooks Laich said. "We were right there in the hockey game."

Tomas Vokoun started both games. He's 1-7-2 with a 3.47 goals-against average in his last 11 starts at the RBC Center, losing 3-0 on Jan. 20 when Cam Ward made 23 saves to help Carolina end a four-game home slide in the series.

Ward, however, won't play Monday. He was ruled out with an lower-body injury following the team's morning skate, leaving Justin Peters - 1-3-0 with a 3.65 GAA - as the starter. The Hurricanes called up Mike Murphy from AHL Charlotte to be his backup.

Washington has won three of four from Carolina this season, with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom each contributing team highs of four points. Backstrom, though, has been out since Jan. 3 with a head injury.

Carolina had gone 4-0-2 over its previous six games before Saturday's 4-3 road loss to the Islanders. Ward was replaced by Peters after two periods for giving up three goals on 21 shots.

"You have to find ways to win this time of year,'' coach Kirk Muller said. "The guys fought hard, but we came up short.''

Carolina has become accustomed to close games in its last six, with five decided by one goal and another by two with an empty-net tally. The Hurricanes had scored first in four straight games before falling behind early on Long Island.

"This was a game we wanted to have," leading scorer Eric Staal said. "I don't think we had the start we wanted in the first five minutes of the game but we battled back and got back into the game."

Staal has totaled eight points during a five-game run. He has not had a point in six straight games since an eight-game surge Jan. 1-15, 2011.

The Hurricanes continue to play without forwards Tuomo Ruutu and Chad LaRose because of upper-body injuries. Ruutu leads Carolina with 17 goals.

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