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LBC Game Preview: Florida Panthers Vs. Washington Capitals

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The underachieving Panthers look for a shot in the arm tonight against a Caps bunch who scored seven times last night. Tune in later for Cats risin in Verizon.

Joel Auerbach
Tonight, the Washington Capitals will host the Panthers at the Verizon Center in the Chinatown district of Washington D.C. for the first of three contests this season. The Cats will host the Capitals twice later, first on December 13th, then later on February 27th. The Panthers just finished up a six game homestand with a disappointing 1-3-2 record with a 4-0 loss to the St. Louis Blues. Florida will be returning to BB&T in Sunrise for a quick one game homestand against the Edmonton Oilers. They'll then play eight of their following nine matches on the road. The Caps just finished off a five game roadtrip. They started it out 2-2 before destroying the Philadelphia Flyers last night, 7-0. Starting with tonight's matchup, they'll stay in DC for a three game homestand. They'll play host to the New York Islanders on Tuesday night and the Minnesota Wild on Thursday.


A Look Back


Florida and Washington were still division rivals the last time these two met, on April 6th last season. The 12-19-6 Panthers were playing at home against the 18-17-2 Caps, trying to string together a season high fourth straight win. Tomas Kopecky scored twice on four shots. Shawn Matthias added two assists and Peter Mueller also lit the lamp for the Panthers. Jacob Markstrom took the loss, allowing four goals on 31 shots in the 4-3 Washington victory.

Alex Ovechkin's scoring surge continued Saturday night, but the Washington Capitals almost let his work go to waste.

Ovechkin had three goals and an assist to help the Capitals build a 4-0 lead, then had to hold off a three-goal third period by the Florida Panthers to win 4-3 at BB&T Center.

Ovechkin's 12th career hat trick gave him 13 goals in 13 games, and after a slow start he is now tied for second in the NHL with 23 goals, only two behind Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

"He brings us energy," goaltender Braden Holtby said. "He's doing what we expect him to do. That's the player we expect out of him, and he's doing a great job of it. * Full Recap * Box Score

Last night, Washington put on an offensive show on the road in Philadelphia:

With Ovechkin sidelined by an upper-body injury, Joel Ward stepped up with his first career hat trick to lead the Capitals to a 7-0 victory against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center on Friday night.

Nicklas Backstrom had two goals, Jason Chimera scored once and had three assists, and Braden Holtby made 30 saves for his first shutout of the season and the eighth of his career.

"I thought we were outstanding today," Holtby said. "Obviously, some goals went in, but I thought our whole game was great. I thought the Flyers played a better game than a 7-0 game, and this shows how well we played. I thought this was our best effort of the year."


Capitals-Flyers line brawl leads to goalie fight (Video) (via Dokle Gfgfiss)

Standings

Florida Panthers: 3-8-2, eight points, .308, on pace for 50 points, seventh in the Atlantic Division, 14th in the Eastern Conference, tied for 27th in the NHL. Last five: W-O-L-O-L

Washington Capitals: 6-7-0, 12 points, .462, on pace for 76 points, third in the Metropolitan Divisioin, eighth in the Eastern Conference, tied for 18th in the NHL. Last five: W-W-L-L-W

Common Thread

Florida's leading scorer the last two seasons, Tomas Fleischmann, spent 2005-2010 with the Capitals. He played 283 regular season and 22 playoff matches, scoring 60 goals with 78 assists, a minus-11 rating and 94 minutes in the box.


Little used grinder Joey Crabb played 26 games with the Caps last season, scoring two goals, drawing eight PIM, and finishing with a minus-1 rating.


Panthers Milestones

Games

Mike Weaver will play in his 205th Panther game, moving him past Juraj Kolnik into 39th.

Goals

Marcel Goc will move into the all-time top 50 with his next goal, number 24, tying Dave Gagner. Tomas Kopecky will pass Mike Van Ryn into 48th with his 26th goal. Kris Versteeg tied Mike Hough and Gary Roberts in 45th with a goal last game, his 27th. Tomas Fleischmann currently has 41 goals, and will tie Gord Murphy in 27th all-time with his next.

Assists

Matthias has 44 assists, tied with Jody Hull, Chris Gratton, and Ivan Novoseltsev in 46th. Fleischmann and Dmitry Kulikov each have 64 assists, If either of them get their 65th, they will tie captain Ed Jovanovski in 29th. Brian Campbell currently has 73 assists, in 21st place, and will move into the top 20 all-time with one more, tying Johan Garpenlov.

Birthdays

Former Panther and current Predator Matt Cullen turns 37 today.

Probable Starting Lineups

Florida Panthers

Forwards
  • Tomas Fleischmann - Aleksander Barkov - Jonathan Huberdeau
  • Sean Bergenheim - Nick Bjugstad - Kris Versteeg
  • Shawn Matthias - Marcel Goc - Tomas Kopecky
  • Brad Boyes - Scott Gomez - Jesse Winchester
Defensemen

  • Brian Campbell - Dmitry Kulikov
  • Tom Gilbert - Mike Weaver
  • Erik Gudbranson - Matt Gilroy

Goaltenders
  • Scott Clemmensen - Jacob Markstrom

Washington Capitals

Forwards
  • Martin Erat - Nicklas Backstrom - Eric Fehr
  • Marcus Johansson - Brooks Laich - Troy Brouwer
  • Jason Chimera - Mikhail Grabovski - Joel Ward
  • Aaron Volpatti - Michael Latta - Tom Wilson
Defensemen
  • Nate Schmidt - Mike Green
  • Karl Alzner - John Carlson
  • John Erskine - Alexander Urbom
Goaltenders

Braden Holtby - Michal Neuvirth


Panthers Leaders

Goals

Brad Boyes - 5, Marcel Goc, Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau -3

Assists

Tomas Fleischmann - 7, Brian Campbell - 5, Aleksander Barkov - 4

Points

Tomas Fleischmann - 9, Aleksander Barkov, Brad Boyes - 7

Faceoffs

Nick Bjugstad - 54.2% (45-of-83), Marcel Goc - 51.8% (117-of-226), Aleksander Barkov - 47.1% (81-of-172)

Shots on Goal

Tomas Fleischmann - 41, Kris Versteeg - 35, Tomas Kopecky - 32

Penalty Minutes

Erik Gudbranson - 40, Dmitry Kulikov - 27, Jesse Winchester - 18

Hits

Mike Weaver - 35, Erik Gudbranson - 27, Shawn Matthias - 23

Blocked Shots

Mike Weaver - 35, Erik Gudbranson - 22, Brian Campbell, Tom Gilbert - 21

For Washington's take on events, Check out Japer's Rink. Check back here later for the GameThread, live tonight 1/2 hour prior to kickoff.