Pregame primer: Ovechkin sets sights on No. 400

Pregame primer: Ovechkin sets sights on No. 400
December 20, 2013, 3:15 pm
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News and notes as the Capitals [18-13-3, 39 points] visit the Carolina Hurricanes [14-13-7, 35 points] at PNC Arena tonight [7 p.m., CSN]:

Between the pipes: Capitals coach Adam Oates has named rookie netminder Philipp Grubauer as his surprise starter tonight, which explains why the Caps took the 22-year-old goalie on their trip to Raleigh. Grubauer [3-0-1, 2.06 GAA, .937 save percentage] faced the Canes back on Dec. 3 and stopped all nine shots in relief of Braden Holtby, who will sit for the fourth time in six games. Cam Ward [5-5-5, 3.04, .901] is expected to start for Carolina, even though Justin Peters has beaten the Caps twice this season and has a 1.69 GAA in his last 11 appearances.

Familiar foes: This will be the third of five meetings between the Caps and Canes. Carolina won both of their visits to Washington, prevailing 3-2 on Oct. 10 and 4-1 on Dec. 3. It was after that 4-1 loss to the Canes that Caps defenseman Karl Alzner said the Caps took Carolina “way too lightly.”

Ovi’s quest for 400: Caps right wing Alex Ovechkin is one goal away from becoming the sixth fastest NHL player to 400. If he scores tonight he’ll have 400 goals in 364 games, one game fewer than Pavel Bure. The only other players to get to 400 faster are Wayne Gretzky [436], Mike Bossy [506], Mario Lemieux [508], Brett Hull [520] and Jari Kurri [608].

The ‘other’ Alex: Former Caps right wing Alex Semin has returned to the lineup after missing four weeks and 12 games with a concussion. In 22 games this season Semin has three goals and six assists and is a minus-6. In six career games against the Caps Semin has two goals, three assists and is a minus-3.

Other 400th: Mikhail Grabovski is expected to return to the lineup after missing two games with the flu. It will be his 400th NHL game.

St. Nick: Nicklas Backstrom’s next power-play assist will move him past Bengt Gustafsson [143] and into third place on the Caps’ all-time power play assists list.

Slowing Skinner: Canes center Jeff Skinner has two goals and three assists against the Caps this season. “They’re a team that likes to gather speed,” Caps right wing Troy Brouwer said. “They’ve got a lot of good skill players up front who move the puck well and can skate well. We’ve been working on getting bodies to the net and cover all angles for rebounds and making sure D-men are getting shots through.”

Shootouts: The Caps lead the NHL in games that have gone to shootouts [13], shootout wins [8] and shootout goals [23]. The Hurricanes have been in just four shootouts [1-3] and have scored one shootout goal on nine attempts [Riley Nash].  

82-game mark: In his first 82 games as Capitals coach, Adam Oates has a record of 45-31-6 for 96 points.
Here are projected lineups for tonight:

CAPITALS

Forward Lines

Marcus Johansson-Nicklas Backstrom-Alex Ovechkin
Eric Fehr-Mikhail Grabovski-Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera-Marty Erat -Joel Ward
Aaron Volpatti-Jay Beagle-Tom Wilson

Defense Pairings

Karl Alzner-John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov-Mike Green
John Erskine-Steve Oleksy

Goaltenders

Philipp Grubauer [starter] – Braden Holtby

HURRICANES

Forward Lines

Jeff Skinner-Eric Staal-Tuomo Ruutu
Nathan Gerbe-Jordan Staal-Alexander Semin
Jiri Tlusty-Riley Nash-Patrick Dwyer
Drayson Bowman-Manny Malhotra-Radek Dvorak

Defense Pairings

Andrej Sekera-Justin Faulk
Jay Harrison-Tim Gleason
Ron Hainsey-Brett Bellemore

Goaltenders

Cam Ward [starter] - Justin Peters