Florida Panthers: 7-11-5 (19 pts) at Washington Capitals: 9-11-1 (19 pts)
After a big division win over the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday night, the Panthers will look to keep things going when they play Washington tonight in another Southeast Division clash. While both teams sit even in the standing with 19 points apiece, the Capitals have reached that total playing two fewer games than Florida. The Capitals got off to a horrendous start going 2-8-1 in the seasons first 11 games but have since turned things around going 7-3-0 in their last 10. The Panthers on the other hand have played consistently poor all season and are 3-5-2 in their last 10.
Washington is coming off a pretty spectacular comeback win over the Boston Bruins. After going down 3-0 in the first period, the Capitals fortified their defense and clawed their way back to tie the game 3-3 and send it to overtime. It was in overtime that Eric Fehr scored this brilliant game winner as he was falling to the ice.
The Panthers scored a few brilliant goals of their own in their 4-1 win over the Jets on Tuesday night. Shawn Matthias‘ goal was nice enough to nab the top play on ESPN’s Top 10. You can see the game highlights here. Florida has only once this year won two games in a row but they will get the opportunity tonight in an important game for both teams.
In Florida’s 4-1 win on Tuesday, you could tell that the team was fired up and playing hard. With all the injuries the Panthers have suffered, it is going to take a full team effort like that every night in order to come away with some wins. Jacob Markstrom was strong in the net in his first start since the Jose Theodore injury and he can expect to get tested early and often tonight by the Capitals.
The Capitals have gotten the better of the Panthers recently. Washington turned their season around against the Panthers as their 7-3-0 streak was jump started by back to back wins against Florida Feb. 9th and 13th. The first win was a 5-0 home victory for Washington in which the Panthers showed zero life. In the rematch on the 13th in Florida the game was much closer and the Panthers actually had a two goal lead in the third before Washington scored two to send the game to overtime where they eventually got the winner in a 6-5 game.
The Capitals have now won five straight against the Panthers and six straight home games against Florida. (Source)
Players to Watch:
Jonathan Huberdeau has scored three goals in his last two games as he has broken out after a stretch of five games without a point. Huberdeau recorded two goals in the Panthers 6-5 overtime loss the last time the Panthers played the Caps. Huberdeau is clearly gaining more and more confidence on the ice which is a scary though when you look at how well he has already been playing.
Mike Ribeiro and Nicklas Backstrom lead the Capitals in assists with 17 each. The duo has been the Caps most productive thus far this season. Braden Holtby has also picked up his play after his dreadful start. In his last four games, he has two shutouts and despite allowing three first period goals Tuesday against the Bruins, he stopped everything that came his way the rest of the game helping the Caps pick up a huge win.
The Panthers will have little rest after tonights game as they return home Friday for another matchup against the Winnipeg Jets.