NHL

Capitals-Hurricanes Preview

Injuries aren't slowing down the NHL-leading Washington Capitals and recent history indicates the Carolina Hurricanes are also unlikely to do it.

With at least center Jay Beagle and top defenseman John Carlson out Thursday night against the Hurricanes, the Capitals go for their longest winning streak since setting a franchise record nearly six years ago.

Washington (28-6-2) is off to the best start in club annals, and it's won nine games in a row after scoring four unanswered third-period goals to rally for a 5-2 win over Buffalo on Wednesday.

The comeback effort was made even more impressive considering the Capitals lost Beagle (upper-body injury) and center Nicklas Backstrom (undisclosed) in the second period. They were already without Carlson, who has been out two games with a lower-body injury.

Carlson has already been ruled out for Thursday, while Beagle will undergo surgery and miss significant time. Backstrom's status is unknown.

"We are pretty relentless as a team," goaltender Braden Holtby said. "(Obviously, the injuries) makes it tougher. Those guys play a huge role on our team but we are just going to have to find different ways to win if they are out."

The Capitals are aiming for their longest winning streak since a team-record 14-game run from Jan. 13-Feb. 7, 2010. They're also opening a five-game trip seeking six consecutive road victories for the first time since Feb. 20-March 15, 2011.

Alex Ovechkin has six goals and two assists in the last six games after scoring twice in the third period Wednesday. The star left wing is among the league leaders with 20 goals, but he's only netted six on the road.

Ovechkin has 37 points in 30 career visits to Carolina but is pointless in four straight, including a 2-1 win Dec. 21.

Philipp Grubauer made 31 saves for that victory, and he's likely to get the nod again after Holtby made 25 stops Wednesday to improve to 16-0-1 with a 1.76 goals-against average in his last 18 games.

Grubauer is 4-2-1 with a 2.30 GAA, and he's allowed three goals in winning both his starts in Raleigh.

The Capitals are 7-1-1 in their last nine matchups with the Hurricanes, winning four of five on the road.

The Hurricanes (15-17-5) are 3-3-1 in their last seven games and trying to bounce back from Tuesday's 3-2 loss at New Jersey. They only allowed four shots in the third period but two got past Cam Ward, with the decisive tally deflecting off Justin Faulk with 3:05 left.

"This one definitely hurt us," captain Eric Staal said.

Staal is looking to build on his two goals from Tuesday, ending his nine-game drought. The center hasn't scored in seven straight home meetings with Washington, but he contributed an assist last week.

Faulk leads Carolina with 14 goals and 30 points, but he was held off the score sheet against the Devils after totaling two goals and an assist over the previous two games. The defenseman's 12 power-play goals are the most in the NHL.

He hasn't scored in his last 15 games against the Capitals and doesn't have a point in three straight.

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