RALEIGH — Washington lost both of its previous two meetings against the Hurricanes this year with Braden Holtby in net for both, giving up a combined seven goals on 59 shots. So Friday night for the Capitals’ first visit to Raleigh this season, Coach Adam Oates opted to start rookie Philipp Grubauer.
“Holts played the other night, gave us a chance to win. Grubi’s been good,” Oates said. “We’ve played Carolina twice, didn’t have the best results, so change it up a little bit with a fresh guy in there.”
The Capitals enter this matchup with a four-point lead over Carolina in the Metropolitan Division standings. But the Hurricanes are trying to close that gap. They’ve earned points in six of their last seven games and are 4-1-2 during that stretch.
Grubauer appeared in the third period of Washington’s 4-1 loss to the Hurricanes on Dec. 3 and stopped all nine shots he faced in that relief outing. He’ll be opposed by Cam Ward, who has yet to face the Capitals this season and has been working to get back in a groove after missing 10 games earlier in the year with a knee injury.
>> Mikhail Grabovski will be back in the lineup after missing the past two games and nearly a week with the flu. Oates said he’ll keep an eye on the center to make sure he’s not overtaxed in his return.
“He lost a lot of fluids, he was sick for a long time,” Oates said. “We’re going to watch him early, make sure we’re not overextending him. We’ve got three [games] in four nights. I’m sure that as the game goes along he’ll be a little tired.
>> Carolina will have defenseman Brett Bellemore back in the lineup for the first time since they last played the Capitals. Bellemore suffered a concussion after being hit up high by Tom Wilson back in that Dec. 3 meeting but the 25-year-old blueliner is more concerned about getting back in the lineup than exacting revenge.
“He kind of came from behind me to the side of me and got me in the chin there with the shoulder. My head had a little bit of whiplash, snapped back,” Bellemore said. “It’s a hockey play, it happened. He’s a big guy, he comes and hits. It’s understandable I’m not going to hold any grudges or anything.”
>> Brooks Laich made the trip with the team to Carolina and was on the ice for a fifth consecutive day as he works toward returning from the groin injury that’s forced him out of the lineup since Nov. 27. Casey Wellman, Alex Urbom and Michal Neuvirth will be healthy scratches against the Hurricanes.
>> Projected lineups for both teams.
Grubauer will start, Holtby will back up.
Jeff Skinner-Eric Staal-Tuomo Ruutu
Nathan Gerbe-Jordan Staal-Alexander Semin
Jiri Tlusty-Riley Nash-Patrick Dwyer
Drayson Bowman-Manny Malhotra-Radek Dvorak
Andrej Sekera-Justin Faulk
Jay Harrison-Tim Gleason
Ron Hainsey-Brett Bellemore
Cam Ward will start, Justin Peters will back up.