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Capitals-Hurricanes Preview

By TOM CASTRO

STATS Senior Editor

(AP) -- The Washington Capitals suffered a regulation loss their last time out, a rarity for them of late. They'll try to get back on track in a matchup with the Carolina Hurricanes, the team that had dealt them their previous defeat in regulation.

The Capitals look to avoid their third loss in as many matchups with the Hurricanes this season when the Metropolitan Division rivals meet in Raleigh for the first time in 2013-14 on Friday night.

Washington (18-13-3) came into Tuesday's contest at Philadelphia 4-0-1 in its last five, but couldn't complete the home-and-home sweep and lost 5-2. The Caps had overcome a three-goal deficit in the series opener Sunday by scoring three straight times in the third period of a 5-4 shootout win, and fell behind by three again Tuesday but couldn't duplicate the comeback.

Alex Ovechkin gave Washington a 1-0 second-period lead with his NHL-leading 28th goal, which gave him 399 in his nine-year career. He has four goals and three assists in his last five games against the Hurricanes (14-13-7).

"If I'm a betting man, I'd probably say he's got a good chance of scoring (Friday)," said forward Eric Fehr, who also had a goal against the Flyers.

Ovechkin scored against the Hurricanes on Oct. 10, but Washington lost 3-2 and also fell 4-1 to them Dec. 3 - both times on home ice.

"This is a team that plays us tough every time, for some reason we have a little bit of trouble with Carolina, so we're gonna have to make sure we're ready for it," Fehr said. "We've gotta have a little bit of a bounce-back game, I don't think we finished the game the way we wanted to last game and we've gotta be ready for a team that's gonna come at us pretty quick."

The Capitals took the last meeting in Raleigh 5-3 on April 2 and won 3-1 at home nine days later to take a three-game winning streak in the series into this season.

Washington may have a good chance to earn another road victory over Carolina if its power play continues to simmer. The Caps have gone 6 for 15 in the past four games, scoring at least once with the man advantage each time, and they're 8 for 26 in the last seven starting with the Dec. 3 contest.

The Hurricanes, though, are playing well and are well-rested. They closed out an impressive 4-1-2 stretch with a 3-1 victory over Phoenix on Saturday that completed a four-game road trip.

All but one of those seven contests came away from home.

"It's a big win for us. You look at the standings, you have to pick up points wherever you can," coach Kirk Muller said. "But it's the way we won. At the end of a long road trip, we fought and played hard to beat a good hockey team."

Eric Staal had a goal and two assists and Jeff Skinner scored for the third straight game, while Justin Peters made 37 saves for Carolina.

Peters has posted a 1.38 goals-against average in going 3-1-1 in his last five games. He held the Coyotes scoreless over the last two periods while facing 27 shots.

"We talk about timely goals; he made some really timely saves at the right time of the game," Muller said. "He looks real confident."

Skinner recorded two goals and an assist Dec. 3 and has three goals and three assists in the last three matchups with Washington.

Staal has two goals and 12 assists in his last 10 in the series.

Caps center Nicklas Backstrom has recorded two goals and eight assists in a four-game overall point streak.

Updated December 19, 2013

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