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Mar 22, 2024 6:30 am

Hurricanes’ Evgeny Kuznetsov returns to face Capitals

Evgeny Kuznetsov

The Carolina Hurricanes and Washington Capitals have developed a notable rivalry in recent years.

That competition might reach a different level when the teams meet Friday night in Washington.

While there is bound to be a degree of respect, there will be an awkwardness because of who will be wearing a Hurricanes jersey. Evgeny Kuznetsov spent his first 10 1/2 NHL seasons playing for the Capitals before he was traded to Carolina on March 8.

“I’m playing on my emotions right now,” Kuznetsov said, according to The Athletic.

The big story will be Kuznetsov going to back face his longtime team barely two weeks after he was traded in exchange for a 2025 third-round draft pick. He has registered two goals and three assists in eight games with Carolina, though his four-game points streak ended Thursday in the Hurricanes’ 3-2 overtime win against the visiting Philadelphia Flyers.

The Hurricanes (44-20-6, 94 points) have a five-game winning streak. They mostly have been clicking since the addition of Kuznetsov, a 31-year-old center.

The Capitals (33-26-9, 75 points) had a three-game winning streak end with a 7-3 home loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday. That contest marked the beginning of a four-game homestand.

“We can do a way better job of closing in the defensive zone,” Capitals coach Spencer Carbery said. “I felt like we were just shadowing for so much, whether it was on the puck — being able to close and get into people — or off the puck, the next play, we were just a step behind.”

Hurricanes forward Seth Jarvis has scored in five consecutive games, racking up six goals during that stretch. He has 26 goals this season, just one behind team leader Sebastian Aho.

His latest goal was the overtime winner against the Flyers.

The Hurricanes will be motivated to do better after an uneven performance. The three goals they scored represented their lowest total in a five-game stretch.

“We didn’t play our best, but we got the job done,” Jarvis said.

That was generally the message from coach Rod Brind’Amour.

“Not a great game by us other than the goaltending (from Frederik Andersen) and our penalty kill did a nice job,” he said. “We needed to be better, that’s for sure.”

Yet the Hurricanes keep producing positive results, particularly on the road. Carolina is 15-1-2 in its past 18 road games.

“Playing the right way and things are working out for us,” said Carolina defenseman Jalen Chatfield, who scored a goal on Thursday. “It’s time to tighten up and make sure we’re at full gear and playing the right way.”

The Hurricanes figure to turn to Pyotr Kochetkov in goal based on their trend of rotating him with Andersen the past few weeks. Kochetkov will aim for his first three-game winning streak since winning four straight from Dec. 27-Jan. 5.

The Capitals might have a lineup issue as right winger Tom Wilson will have a hearing with the league’s Department of Player Safety on Friday related to his high-stick to the face of Toronto’s Noah Gregor on Wednesday. A suspension is possible for the incident in which Wilson swung his stick.

“We’ll figure things out for our next game,” Carbery said.

–Field Level Media

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