Over the course of the next eight games, which include six on the road after home tilts tonight and Sunday afternoon, the Capitals will face six teams either currently in the playoff picture or very close to get in. Tonight’s foe, the Carolina Hurricanes, sit two points out of eighth place.

While Washington has been winning lately, they’re 5-5 in their last 10 meetings against teams either among the top eight in either conference or those still with a good chance of edging their way into the postseason (i.e., Anaheim). So this next stretch may be a litmus test to see where the Capitals truly are.

“It’s a great test,” Coach Bruce Boudreau said. “We’ll see not only what we’re made of, but we’ll see how much we have to improve if we want to go anywhere. I think it’s a great test these games and I’m glad they’re coming.”

Washington is 4-0-0 against the Hurricanes this season, but three have been one-goal affairs, one requiring a shootout. The Capitals are accustomed to playing tough, close games against Carolina, and right now it’s not a bad thing for them either.

Boudreau acknowledged that while the 5-0 win over Edmonton earlier this week was nice, he expects that the majority of the contests from here on out to be decided by one or two goals. The Capitals have grown familiar with those types of games over the course of the season, particularly during this six-game winning streak, and as colleague Tom Boswell wrote today they might be finding a groove at the right time.

”I don’t know if we’re hot-hot, but we’re playing better, playing well, and I think that’s what we want to be doing,” Mike Knuble said. “I just like the way we’re playing much more than last year. We’re not guaranteed anything and I think we’re a different team than we were at this point last year, but I think we’re better built for the long haul.”