The Carolina Hurricanes were the last team to win in regulation at Washington, and they're one of the NHL's hottest clubs as they get set to return to the nation's capital.
After acquiring a pair of players for the stretch run from their
Southeast Division rival before the trading deadline, the
NHL-leading Capitals are expected to have
Washington's 18-1-1 record in its last 20 home games is a big reason why the Capitals (44-13-9) have a 13-point lead atop the Eastern Conference.
But their only regulation defeat in that stretch was a 6-3 loss to Carolina on Dec. 28 as the Hurricanes' Eric Staal had two goals and three assists. At the time, Carolina was last in the East.
"We were in last for a long time, and teams start to take you for granted, and we were a good team," Walker said of the Hurricanes. "All that skill and stuff is coming out now, and if you take them for granted, then you're going to end up at the wrong end of the night."
The victory began an 18-9-0 stretch for the Hurricanes, who've won eight of their last nine and climbed out of the conference cellar. But thanks to an injury-riddled start, Carolina's playoff chances are slim one season after reaching the East finals.
The Hurricanes were sellers last Wednesday, sending Corvo and Walker to Washington in separate deals.
Corvo has taken over for fellow defenseman Brian Pothier, who was sent to Carolina. Walker scored two third-period goals in a 5-4 win over Tampa Bay in his Capitals debut Thursday, although he was a healthy scratch Monday against Dallas.
"I'm still trying to get accommodated and accustomed to systems here, so it's really just concentrate on what we're doing," Walker said. "Obviously playing guys that you're familiar with is always interesting."
The Hurricanes are no strangers to Washington star Alex Ovechkin, who has at least one point in 12 straight games against Carolina, totaling four goals and 17 assists.
Although the Capitals' 13-game home winning streak was snapped in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Stars on Monday, the team was happy to get two goals from Ovechkin. The two-time reigning Hart Trophy winner had been held without a goal in six straight games - his longest drought this season.
Ovechkin is tied with Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby for the league lead with 44 goals and is alone atop the NHL with 92 points.
"He was frustrated the last few games. I told him this morning, 'You've got to work harder,'" Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said Monday. "... When he has his energy, well, he is what he is: the best player in the world."
Ovechkin will try to beat veteran Manny Legace, who has gone 5-0-0 with a 1.59 goals-against average in his last five starts as he helps to fill in for injured starter Cam Ward.
The Hurricanes (27-31-7) had a seven-game winning streak snapped with a 4-1 loss at Florida on Saturday, but bounced back Sunday with a 4-0 win at Atlanta, as Jussi Jokinen scored his 15th goal in his last 19 games and Legace made 27 saves for his first shutout of the season.
"It's huge," Legace said. "It's what you dream about. It's everything you want. In this league, it's so hard to do."
The 37-year-old is 2-0-0 with a 1.77 GAA in his career against the Capitals, although he has not faced them since he was with St. Louis in a 4-3 win on Oct. 27, 2007.