After falling just a bit short in a comeback attempt last night against the Atlanta Thrashers, the Florida Panthers come home to face a Washington Capitals team that will be looking for their fourth win in a row. A Capitals victory would also put them in first place by one point over the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Southeast Division, giving them their fourth consecutive division title.
The Capitals who struggled earlier this season (Bruce Boudreau f-bomb on HBO), have since come out of their funk, and have been playing the way they are expected to play. Contributing heavily to the resurgence is Alexander Ovechkin who won’t get near his season total of 109 points from last year, but he’s rolling along enough to contribute to the Caps success. Of his 67 points, 55 of them have come in Washington victories. He currently has 25 goals to lead the team.
Michael Neuvirth seems to be handling the goaltending duties just fine and has a record of 21-10-4, which sets a new record for rookie goaltender victories that was previously set by Bob Mason in 1986-1987. Jason Arnott who was picked up at the trade deadline has provided exactly what the Caps were looking for. Veteran presence and some timely scoring. He’s played two games, has two points and a game winning goal so far.
Also picked up at the deadline was Panther defenseman Dennis Wideman, who is expected to spruce up their powerplay. Wideman has played two games and has no points, but is a plus 2 after being a minus 24 here in Sunrise.
The Panthers who are struggling terribly, have won two of the three meetings so far against Washington this season, as they have that ability to play to their competition. However they’ve now lost four in a row and 17 of their past 22 games. They also have a record or 48-0 in back to back games. Newcomer Sergei Samsonov acquired from Carolina in the Bryan Allen trade scored his first goal last night and also picked up an assist in the loss to Atlanta.
The new group is 0-2-1 since the trade deadline and has had played inconsistently at best. Not hard to believe with eight new faces on board and players trying to fit in etc. Alexander Sulzer is most likely out of today’s game with an undisclosed injury. Clay Wilson has been called in from Rochester to take his place. A defence that is being held together with scotch tape is the best way to describe this bunch right now as half the unit has spent most of the year in the AHL.
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