Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Gameday Preview: Florida Panthers vs Washington Capitals

The Florida Panthers will host the Washington Capitals in their first game after the Olympic break, looking to finish the season on a strong note.

In the third and final meeting between the former Southeastern Conference divisional foes, one team will win the season series as they have split shootout 3-2 victories back-and-forth this season.

Leading the way for the Capitals, as always, is captain Alexander Ovechkin – who is coming off a disappointing Olympics that saw his team get fail to medal after heavy expectations to win gold on his homeland.

After scoring the first goal for team Russia, Ovechkin failed to score the rest of the tournament, and now that the Olympics are over he can focus on defending his Maurice Rocket Richard Trophy, as he currently sits atop the league in goals with 40.

Ovechkin may be the face of the team, but Nicklas Backstrom is enjoying a great season, only trailing Ovechkin by four points (60-to-56) and is among the league leaders in assists (45). He has become the Adam Oates to Ovechkin’s Brett Hull.

For Florida, 15-points out of a playoff spot with 24-games left, they will look to end the season on as good a note as possible – likely without rookie sensation Alexsander Barkov and veteran Tomas Kopecky.

Both were injured while playing in Sochi – and both look to be out indefinitely. Nick Bjugstad will step into Barkov’s spot on the first line with Brad Boyes and Sean Bergenheim. With 25-points in 52-games, Bjugstad has been the Panthers best player as of late.

Players to Watch

Tim Thomas

Thomas will be under the microscope for the next week leading up to the trade deadline, as he could be one of the hottest names come March 5, where he could be a good backup option for a contending team.

Of course, Florida have stated that they want to keep Thomas around for the foreseeable future so unless they get blown away with an offer, they will likely hold onto him. Thomas has been great without much help in front of him, posting a .910 SP and a 2.80 GAA.

Mikail Grabovski

For as many points as Ovechkin and Backstrom have, Grabovski is the only forward with a positive rating at a plus-4. Grabovski has been the perfect second center, something that the Capitals have been missing in the years before.

With 33-points in 49-games this season, Grabovski will be just as impotant as Washington’s top-line players if they are to succeed the rest of the season.

The Capitals-Panthers game starts at 7:30 pm.

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