It has been over a month since the Washington Capitals last put together a winning streak, but a solid divisional record has kept them in the hunt in the Southeast standings.
The Caps try to rebound from a weekend loss this evening as they battle a Carolina Hurricanes club that is running out of time to move up the standings.
Washington visited the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday looking to win two straight for the first time since a three-game run from Jan. 11-15. Fresh off a win over the Southeast Division-leading Panthers, the Capitals were dealt a 2-1 loss by the Lightning and now sit two points behind first place.
The Capitals' 63-point total also has them one back of the Maple Leafs and Jets for the East's eighth spot.
"[The Lightning] clogged it up pretty good. Definitely we were trying to be maybe too cute, but they blocked a lot of shots. We couldn't get shots through," said Caps head coach Dale Hunter.
Washington saw the return of Mike Green on Saturday as the defenseman played for the first time since Jan. 7 after undergoing sports hernia surgery. Green logged a little over 14 minutes of action and said afterwards that he "felt fine."
"I think they scheduled me to come back so I could have an off day [Sunday]," he said. "That's the plan and I think we'll stick with it."
Washington fell to 10-5-2 versus the Southeast Division and that includes a 3-1-0 mark in four games versus Carolina this year. The Capitals are 8-1-1 in their last 10 versus the Hurricanes overall and had won four in a row at Carolina before dropping a 3-0 decision at RBC Center when the clubs last met on Jan. 20.
Cam Ward logged a 23-save shutout to down the Capitals, but is doubtful for this game after exiting Saturday's 4-3 loss to the Islanders. Ward allowed three goals on 21 shots through two periods, but did not return for the third due to a lower-body injury. Justin Peters made nine saves on 10 shots in relief, but was beaten for the game-winner just 38 seconds into the frame.
Peters had gotten the start the previous day versus the Sharks, making 35 saves in a 3-2 victory in his first action since Jan. 7. Peters has appeared in just four games this season for the usually-durable Ward.
"They scored the majority of their goals on the rush," said Hurricanes forward Eric Staal. "And that's where they hurt us."
Tlusty has four goals and three assists over a seven-game point streak, while Staal has four goals and eight points in his last five games.
Carolina, which opens a six-game homestand, sits last in the East with 55 points, two behind Buffalo and three back of a trio of teams that are tied for the 11th spot.