Carolina Hurricanes vs. Washington Capitals Pick & Prediction DECEMBER 17th 2023

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Amid a rough stretch, the Carolina Hurricanes will aim to get back to playing their game when they host the Washington Capitals on Sunday evening in Raleigh, N.C.

The Hurricanes, who entered the season among the mix of Stanley Cup contenders, have struggled to string victories together and have won three in a row just once — from Oct. 26-30. Since then, they’ve won consecutive games four times before dropping their next outing.

The latest instance of that trend came Friday. After four straight losses to start a six-game trip, Carolina closed the trek with wins against the Ottawa Senators and Detroit Red Wings. On Friday, the Hurricanes returned home for the second half of a back-to-back and dropped a 6-5 decision in overtime to Nashville, a contest in which they held three two-goal leads.

“We don’t make those kinds of excuses around here,” Carolina forward Stefan Noesen said. “It’s just we were a little loose, and (it) kind of is what it was (Friday). We scored a lot, we lent up a lot, and that’s just not the way that we play the game.”

The Hurricanes’ woes haven’t been helped by spotty goaltending in the indefinite absence of Frederik Andersen. Antti Raanta and Pyotr Kochetkov have evenly split the duties between the pipes, with 14 appearances (12 starts) each. Raanta was in goal against the Predators, increasing his goals-against average to 3.61 and dropping his save percentage to .854. On Saturday, Carolina put the goalie on waivers.

“At the end of the day, you see what happens when your goalie plays well,” coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “The game looks a lot different. If we get consistency in that position, I think everything looks way different.”

The Capitals enter the game off a 3-1 loss to the Predators on Saturday. The defeat, which ended a four-game point streak (2-0-2), was their fifth in the past seven games (2-3-2).

The once-dominant offense that Washington has possessed throughout the years has tapered off the past two seasons. After years as a mainstay among the top 10 in the NHL in goals per game, the Capitals finished 20th in the league last season and have dropped even further this year, sitting 30th with an average 2.44 goals.

“It’s kind of the same old story that we’ve been talking about, trying to break through,” defenseman John Carlson said. “Some games they’re falling in, and a lot they’re still just not going. I think we’ve got to impose our will a little bit more in the middle and force them in.”

One factor in that has been the struggles of star captain Alex Ovechkin, who is stuck on five goals through 27 games. Ovechkin has gone 12 games without finding the back of the net. His last goal came just shy of a month ago, scoring against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Nov. 18.

Darcy Kuemper likely will be in goal against the Hurricanes after Charlie Lindgren played vs. the Predators.

–Field Level Media

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