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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Friday, December 20th (All times Eastern)

Washington Capitals (18-13-3) at Carolina Hurricanes (14-13-7), 7 p.m.

(SportsNetwork.com) - The Carolina Hurricanes will try to improve to 3-0 against the Washington Capitals when they host Friday's Metropolitan Division clash at PNC Arena.

The Hurricanes already have earned at least a split of the four-game season series against the Caps, winning a pair of road meetings earlier in the campaign.

Carolina notched a 3-2 regulation win in D.C. on Nov. 10 and then recorded a 4-1 decision on Dec. 3. Despite those wins, the Capitals have still taken four of the last seven overall meetings in this series and Washington also has claimed two straight and six of the past eight encounters in Raleigh.

The Hurricanes, who are 4-1-2 over their last six outings, enter Thursday's divisional battle in fourth place in the Metro standings, one point behind Philadelphia for the division's last automatic playoff berth. The Flyers are off on Friday, but they pulled ahead of Carolina after Thursday's home win over Columbus.

Carolina halted a three-game slide in its last trip to the ice, as it salvaged the final test of a four-game road trip by winning in Phoenix last Saturday. The well-rested Hurricanes hope to pick up where they left off tonight, as they aim to build off Saturday's 3-1 win in the desert.

The 'Canes were tied at 1-1 with the Coyotes after two periods before Jeff Skinner notched the game-winner three minutes into the final stanza. The score remained 2-1 until Eric Staal registered an empty-net goal to seal it with six seconds left.

Nathan Gerbe also scored and Staal totaled three points on a goal and two assists. Justin Peters made 37 saves for the win.

Skinner has scored a goal in three straight games and has eight tallies over his last seven contests. He also has two goals and three assists in Carolina's two wins against the Caps this season.

"When you're getting chances, that's the way it goes sometimes. We're creating chances as a line and I've been lucky to capitalize on a few," said Skinner.

Beginning with tonight's tilt, the Hurricanes will play four of their next six games on home ice. Carolina is 7-6-4 as the host this season.

The Capitals will try to bounce back from just their second regulation loss in the last nine games when they take the ice on Friday. Washington dropped a 5-2 decision Tuesday in Philadelphia, dropping the club to 6-2-1 over the last nine outings.

Washington posted a 5-4 shootout win in the opener of a home-and-home series with visiting Philadelphia on Sunday, but the Flyers answered back with a victory in their home portion of the series. The loss dropped the Caps to 6-6-3 as the road club this season, a record that pales in comparison to Washington's 12-7-0 mark as the host.

With the scored tied at 2-2 late in the second period, Philadelphia was given a five-minute power play after Flyers forward Brayden Schenn was drilled by Washington's Tom Wilson, who was given a 10-minute misconduct for the charge. The Flyers made the Caps pay by scoring twice during the lengthy advantage, with Mark Streit and Jakub Voracek tallying the goals for Philly.

Wilson had a disciplinary hearing with the league for his hit, but was informed on Thursday that he will not be suspended.

"To be honest with you, I don't think it was a dirty play," Wilson's teammate Alex Ovechkin said. "He saw the hit coming, he turned, and Willy (Tom Wilson) is a big boy. It's always dangerous out there, it's hockey. When you get hit, you have to be ready, especially at the boards. I don't think he was ready, I think he was going to turn, but Willy just finished his check."

Ovechkin and Eric Fehr scored on Tuesday for the Capitals, who had won four of five heading into the finale of the home-and-home. Braden Holtby allowed five goals on 35 shots in the loss.

Mikhail Grabovski is expected to return tonight after the forward missed the last two games for the Capitals. Meanwhile, Carolina defenseman Brett Bellemore and forward Elias Lindholm are questionable for Thursday's clash.

12/20 10:56:47 ET

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