Game Day Preview: Washington Capitals at Florida Panthers March 6, 2011

Florida: 26-31-8 (60PTS)
Washington: 35-20-10 (80PTS)
Season Series: 2-1-0 (1 OT)

The Florida Panthers host the Washington Capitals this afternoon in the last Sunday home game of the season. The game is the first in a seven-game home stand. The new-look, post-trade deadline Panthers are 0-2-1 so far, but have played hard. The Panthers found offense last night, scoring 3 goals for the first time since the loss to Detroit on February 18. There will be no playoffs this season, but this home stand will be a good opportunity for the fans to get a new look at some guys who may be back next year, for management to decide whether they will be back and for the coaching staff to try to bring the team together for the last quarter of the season.

Last meeting: The Panthers won at home 4-3 in overtime on January 11, in the second hame of a home and home series that saw the home team win both games. The Panthers have won 2-of-3. Both players who had the game winning goals have since been traded, Michael Frolik to Chicago and Dennis Wideman to the Capitals.

Last game: The Panthers lost the Thrashers 4-3 on overtime after coming back from a 3-1 deficit in the third period. New Panthers Sergei Samsonov and Niclas Bergfors made it on the score sheet. Samsonov had the opening goal and both had assists on Stephen Weiss' goal in the third. David Booth scored the tying goal. The overtime loss put the Panthers a point ahead of the Islanders for 27th place in the league.

Notes: Alexander Sulzer was injured in Saturday's game and did not return. Defenseman Clay Wilson was recalled from Rochester for today's game.

Injuries: Alexander Sulzer (day to day), unknown (3/5/2011), Ryan Carter (day to day), upper-body injury (2/12/2011). Evgeni Dadonov (IR), broken finger, out at least a month (3/3/2011). Jack Skille (day to day), High ankle sprain, unknown (2/23/2011). Shawn Matthias (IR), broken ankle, out 6-8 weeks (1/31/2011). Rostislav Olesz, knee, out for the season (2/25/2011). Byron Bitz (IR), sports hernia, out for the season.

Starting goaltenders: Tomas Vokoun has the two wins against the Capitals and will probably start today. Scott Clemmensen had the lone loss.

Lines: Coach Pete DeBoer tried a new top line against the Thrashers, moving Bergfors up to play with Weiss and Samsonov. This line scored twice and David Booth, moved back to the second line, had a goal, so it's reasonable to think that DeBoer will stay with these lines today.
Bergfors - Weiss - Samsonov
Booth - Santorelli - Bernier
McArdle - Reasoner - Repik
Hordichuk - Timmins - Thomas

Defense: The defense has been depleted through trades and injury. Two of the defensemen playing today have spent most of the season in Rochester and a third has played about half the season there. DeBoer will likely replace Sulzer with Wilson on a pairing with Kulikov to keep the minor-leaguers spread out, but look for the Kulikov-Ellerby pairing to return late and on the power play.

The Panthers have played well against the Capitals this season, but the team that played them in the first three games is not the one that will take the ice today. Once again, it's anyone's guess as to how the game will end, but look for the Panthers to play hard and not give the Capitals two easy points.

More from our Washington cohorts at Japers' Rink.

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TSN Preview here.