Preview: Capitals vs. Hurricanes
When: 7 p.m.
Records: Washington 19-6-6, Carolina 7-18-5.
Where: Verizon Center.
Division dominance: In their first game after climbing atop the NHL standings, the Capitals got a rude awakening in snowy Buffalo with their first shutout loss of the season, 3-0 against the Sabres. The defeat snapped a six-game winning streak for Washington, but if this season has been any indication, Friday's game against Carolina is as good a chance as any to get back in the win column. Not only do the Hurricanes have the worst record in the NHL, Washington is 7-0-0 against Southeast Division foes this season.
Knuble could be back: The Capitals are hopeful that veteran winger Mike Knuble (five goals, 10 assists) will rejoin the lineup after missing 12 games following surgery on his left pinkie. Knuble's return would come at a perfect time for Washington, as he specializes in generating traffic in front of the net -- something the team struggled with Wednesday against Buffalo netminder Ryan Miller. If Knuble plays, it would mark the first time since Nov. 1 that the Capitals have had all of their top six forwards in the lineup at the same time, a fact that makes the team's NHL-leading 108 goals even more impressive. Also expected to return for the Capitals are new father Matt Bradley and rookie Mathieu Perreault, a pair of forwards who missed Wednesday's game.
Picking up the pace: One of the reasons Carolina struggled early this season was the extended absence of star goalie and 2006 Conn Smythe winner Cam Ward, who returned Wednesday after missing 13 games with a laceration on his leg. Ward's 27 saves weren't enough to avoid a 4-2 loss to New Jersey, but the Hurricanes have been playing better recently -- they are 5-6-1 after winning just two of their first 16 games.
-- Mark Giannotto