RALEIGH, N.C. — Things are going so well for the Washington Capitals that perhaps veteran center Alex Ovechkin has even improved.
That’s probably about the last thing the Carolina Hurricanes need to hear in advance of Friday night’s game at PNC Arena.
The Capitals produced a 6-2 home victory Tuesday night against the Detroit Red Wings, buoyed by Ovechkin’s hat trick that extended his point streak to 12 games.
“He’s having a great start to the year,” Capitals coach Todd Reirden said. “In particular, it has been his 5-on-5 play and converting on his chances. He’s earning it and he’s doing the things the right way and he’s being a great leader for us so far this year.”
With an 18-9-3 record, Washington carries a three-game winning streak during which it has outscored opponents 14-4. Ovechkin has been at the core of this robust stretch.
“I know some other year statistically have been better,” Reirden said. “But for me, it’s the best two-way hockey he has played. A lot of credit to him for what he has done.”
It hasn’t been nearly as rosy recently for the Hurricanes, who are 1-4-1 in their last six games. They’re coming off Thursday night’s 6-4 loss at Montreal.
For Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour, it’s a matter of staying the course and following the blueprint regardless of the most-recent outcome. He doesn’t want one game to overly impact the next.
“I don’t really think coming off one game on a game or another, you really should really approach it different,” Brind’Amour said.
Washington, though, has found numerous sources that it wants to keep tapping. The Capitals are proud that the fourth line of Nic Dowd, Travis Boyd and Dmitrij Jaskin has produced 12 points across the team’s first five games in December.
“If you can get production from that fourth line, you can be a very difficult team to match up against,” Reirden said.
One of the questions for the Capitals entering the season was how much offense would be produced from the lines other than the top line.
“A lot of chemistry and they’re playing well and nice to see them get rewarded,” Reirden said. “I like that element that we can add to our team right now.”
Since Tuesday, Washington defenseman Christian Djoos has missed practice with a lower-body injury and is considered day-to-day.
The Carolina roster has been adjusted with the promotion of forward Janne Kuokkanen, who made his NHL season debut Thursday night.
“Young guys coming up, you don’t want to give them too much and get them overloaded,” Brind’Amour said. “You just want to let them play and turn them loose.”
Kuokkanen, 20, replaced center Jordan Staal, who was placed on injured reserve retroactive to Dec. 5 because of a concussion. It had been more than a year since Kuokkanen’s NHL debut in October 2017.
The Hurricanes could be in line for another move after defenseman Haydn Fleury departed Thursday night’s game with an upper-body injury and didn’t return.
This is the first of four meetings this season with the next encounter coming in less than two weeks at Washington.