The Carolina Hurricanes are in dire straits going into tonight’s game against the Washington Capitals, but this news won’t make things anything easier. Ben Raby of CSN Washington reports that Alex Ovechkin is likely to return to action for the Caps tonight after taking some time off with an undisclosed injury.
(Some thought the undisclosed injury was really a covert mini-vacation for Ovechkin, by the way.)
In fact, Raby also writes that there is reason to believe that Jason Arnott will be back in the fold, too. Considering the fact that Semyon Varlamov is likely to be the starting goalie for today’s game after he was the first goalie off the ice, one might even be inclined to call Tuesday’s rendition of the team an “old look” Caps bunch.
Now, it’s important to note that Raby did not get official word from the Arnott, Ovechkin or coach Bruce Boudreau.
Boudreau said last week that he had hoped to have both Arnott and Ovechkin back in the lineup by the end of this coming week. Ovechkin said yesterday that he was “ready to go.”
When Chimera and Beagle returned to the locker room about 40 minutes after the majority of their teammates, both players confirmed that they expect to be scratched tonight.
“I’d rather not talk about it,” Chimera said. “If your boss came to you and said you were sitting out today, would you be happy?”
One player who won’t return tonight is Mike Green, who did skate today but did not practice with the team.
What’s at stake for Carolina
The Hurricanes are five points behind the Buffalo Sabres for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference, with only seven games remaining for each team. In other words, their chances of making the playoffs are slim, although the Canes do have one more meeting left against Buffalo on Sunday.
If they win that game in regulation, then it would morph that gap into three points in six games, which would be a more digestible clip. Ultimately, Carolina should probably treat every game like a must-win and worry about the math later.
What this means for Washington
With a win, the Capitals could push their standings points to 100 with 77 games played. That could have some interesting implications on their bid to earn the top seed in the East (more on that in a future post), but if nothing else, it would give them a borderline bullet-proof lead for the Southeast Division crown.
Both teams have something to gain, even if Washington’s worries are about seeding while Carolina must scratch and claw to keep their playoff dreams alive. The probable returns of Arnott and Ovechkin certainly won’t make things any easier for the Hurricanes.