Hurricanes aim to continue surge vs. Capitals

The surging Carolina Hurricanes will aim for a seventh win in eight games when they host a struggling Washington Capitals' team in the finale of a home-and-home series on Thursday.

The Hurricanes, who lead the Southeast Division with 31 points, have won two straight and six of seven to open a three-point edge over second-place Winnipeg. Washington, meanwhile, is 10 points behind Carolina in fourth place and is 14th out of 15 teams in the East.

The Capitals earned a 3-0 home win over the Hurricanes on Feb. 26 when the clubs met for the first of five encounters this season, but Carolina returned the favor with a shutout victory Tuesday in D.C. Justin Peters made 26 saves for his second career shutout and the Hurricanes cruised to the 4-0 decision.

Riley Nash had two goals for the Hurricanes, while Patrick Dwyer and Joe Corvo also lit the lamp.

"It's a lot of fun just to get an opportunity to play in this league and every time I get an opportunity, I want to try and take advantage of it," Peters said. "We played an awesome game tonight as a team right from the drop of the puck, right to the last buzzer. That was a total group effort tonight and a huge confidence booster for us."

Braden Holtby stopped 32-of-35 shots for the Capitals, who have been outscored by a 13-3 margin during their current 0-3 slide.

The Hurricanes and Caps have split the last eight meetings in this series, but Washington has lost its past two games at Carolina.

Carolina continues to play without No. 1 goaltender Cam Ward, who is expected to be sidelined until late April with a sprained MCL. Peters has started three of the Hurricanes' four games since Ward went down to injury on March 3 and is 2-1-0 in those contests with a 2.35 goals against average. Despite Peters' solid play, Dan Ellis could get the call in net on Thursday.

Hurricanes defenseman Joni Pitkanen has missed five straight and 11 of the last 12 games with a lower-body injury, but he is questionable for Thursday.

Washington hasn't been immune to the injury bug either and the team is currently dealing with several banged up defenseman. With Mike Green and John Erskine already sidelined, Tom Poti was put into action for one game on Sunday before missing the opener against Carolina with an upper body issue. Poti will travel with the team to Raleigh and is questionable for Thursday.

Also, forward Brooks Laich is nearing return to the ice after missing the entire season so far with a groin problem. Laich participated in Washington's Tuesday skate around and could make his season debut on Thursday.

Carolina is 7-5-0 as the host this season, while the Capitals are just 3-7-1 as the guest.