News and notes as the Capitals [21-17-2, 44 points] take on the Carolina Hurricanes [16-2-1-2, 34 points] tonight at VerizonCenter:
Season changer: Before they met on March 14 in Raleigh, the Hurricanes had a 10-point lead over the Caps in the Southeast standings. The Caps had lost three in a row and were four games under .500, while the Canes had won six of seven and were six games over 500. Things looked dismal for the Caps when they fell behind 2-0, but a second-period goal by Joey Crabb started a three-goal comeback that allowed the Caps to pull out a 3-2 win. Including that win, the Caps have gone 11-3-1 while the Canes have gone 1-12-1, allowing the teams to switch places.
Holtby back in: Braden Holtby [17-11-1, 2.71] returns for the Capitals after watching Michal Neuvirth [4-5-1, 2.81] win consecutive games over TampaBay and Montreal. Capitals coach Adam Oates said he hopes the extra rest prepares Holtby for the final eight games of the season. With no back-to-backs among them, there’s a chance Holtby gets all eight starts. Holtby said the rest was nice, “but I’d rather play.”
Volpatti on second line: With Martin Erat, Joel Ward and Brooks Laich sidelined by lower body injures, left wing Aaron Volpatti will play on a second line with Mike Ribeiro and Troy Brouwer. Oates said he liked the way Volpatti handled the fast pace of Tuesday night’s game in Montreal. Wojtel Wolski, drops from second-line left wing to the fourth line.
Injury update: Laich saw another specialist on Thursday and appears to be closer to making a decision on how to proceed with his recovery from a lower body injury that could require surgery. Ward suffered a deep contusion on his left knee when he blocked a shot by Sami Salo on Sunday and remains day-to-day. He has not skated since blocking the shot. Martin Erat, who appeared to suffer a knee injury n Saturday, skated for the third straight day on Thursday and is hopeful to return to the lineup on Saturday night against the Lightning.
Remaining schedule: Six of the Caps’ final eight games are at Verizon Center, where they are 10-8-0 this season. Following Saturday night’s game against Tampa five of the Caps’ final six games are against teams currently in playoff position