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Panthers-Capitals Preview

Wednesday, 08.06.2014 / 4:47 AM

Associated Press

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Panthers-Capitals Preview
Florida Panthers vs. Washington Capitals

With a fourth straight Southeast Division title secured, the Washington Capitals can now turn their attention toward clinching the Eastern Conference's top seed for a second consecutive season.

Failing to accomplish that, however, probably wouldn't cause them to lose much sleep.

The Capitals could get top defenseman Mike Green back in the lineup Wednesday night when they host the Florida Panthers, losers of eight straight.

Tied for seventh after an eight-game losing streak in mid-December, the Capitals (47-22-11) have surged to the top of the conference with a 29-10-7 record since that skid. They moved two points ahead of struggling Philadelphia for the top spot in the East with a 3-2 shootout win at Toronto on Tuesday.

Mike Knuble scored in the fourth round as Washington won its third straight - all after regulation. The Capitals are 7-0-1 in their last eight home games since a three-game skid at the Verizon Center.

"We want to be in first everywhere, so it's nice," said Capitals star Alex Ovechkin, who scored his 300th goal in his sixth NHL season.

While the top seed in the conference guarantees home-ice through the first three rounds of the playoffs, that didn't do the Capitals any good last season. Washington won the Presidents' Trophy with a franchise-record 121 points only to become the first No. 1 seed to blow a 3-1 series lead against a No. 8 and was eliminated by Montreal.

"I think we're more responsible," coach Bruce Boudreau said. "We've got a few more vocal guys than we had last year and that's probably the biggest change."

Though they haven't missed a beat without him, the Capitals would be happy if Green returns to the lineup Wednesday after missing 18 games with concussion symptoms. Green hasn't been as productive this season with 24 points in 49 games, but he eclipsed 70 points the previous two seasons.

Also returning to the lineup for Washington could be winger Alex Semin, who sat out Tuesday with an undisclosed injury.

Ovechkin's team-high 31st goal gave him 11 with 16 assists in his past 22 games. He has seven and eight in his last 12 meetings with Florida.

Nicklas Backstrom has also enjoyed facing the Panthers, tallying five goals and 10 assists in his last 10 matchups.

Florida (29-38-12) continues to limp to the finish line, losing its eighth straight with Saturday's 4-2 defeat to Pittsburgh.

The Panthers, who will miss the playoffs for a 10th consecutive season, have scored 11 goals and are 1 for 17 on the power play during the losing streak. The skid is their longest since a 12-game slide during the 2005-06 season.

Scott Clemmensen made 30 saves in his fourth straight start in place of injured Tomas Vokoun (back).

"I thought our effort was there," coach Pete DeBoer said. "We played a good game. Again, though, you have to score to win in this league. Two is not enough. Two is double our normal output lately, but it's not enough to win."

The Panthers are 2-1-1 against the Capitals this season after going 0-5-1 in the previous six meetings.

2010-2011 season series
DateScoreW. Goal
Apr 09 '11 WSH 0 at FLA 1 B. Thomas
Apr 06 '11 FLA 2 at WSH 5 S. Collins
Mar 06 '11 WSH 3 at FLA 2 - OT A. Semin
Jan 11 '11 WSH 3 at FLA 4 - OT D. Wideman
Jan 08 '11 FLA 2 at WSH 3 A. Ovechkin
Dec 09 '10 FLA 3 at WSH 0 M. Frolik
S. Weiss75212849-94931
D. Booth80231740-312483
S. Samsonov76132740-21441
M. Santorelli80192039-192051
N. Bergfors70122436-8831
D. Wideman6192433-263381
M. Reasoner80141832+22204
M. Frolik5282129+21611
D. Kulikov7062026-44511
C. Higgins48111223+51000
C. Stillman4471623+32011
B. McCabe4851722+32820
R. Dvorak5371421+22003
J. Skille6081119-112911
R. Olesz4461117-1811
J. Garrison7141317-32603
S. Matthias5061016+11600
E. Dadonov348715-21410
S. Bernier6851015-142130
M. Weaver8021113+03401
B. Allen534812-56301
K. Ellerby5221012-142200
S. Reinprecht294610-2611
R. Carter62369-16600
M. Repik29268-52000
B. Thomas22336+0401
C. Wilson13325+2400
D. Hordichuk64145-17600
A. Sulzer40145-81400
S. Timmins19101-8800
J. Callahan25000-31000
K. McArdle11000-31600
P. Rissmiller8000-2000
T. Kennedy4000-1000
H. Jessiman2000-1500
M. Duco2000-11000
T. Vokoun5621-28-513717252.60.921
S. Clemmensen308-10-7708002.56.913
J. Markstrom10-1-02143.00.857
A. Ovechkin78325385+2441711
N. Backstrom76184765+243842
A. Semin64282654+227164
B. Laich81163248+144643
M. Knuble78241640+103671
D. Wideman75103040-193991
J. Carlson8173037+224413
J. Arnott73171431-64041
M. Johansson68131427+21022
J. Chimera80101626-106421
M. Hendricks7691625-110813
M. Green4981624+64851
E. Fehr51101020+01631
M. Sturm3551116+62311
M. Perreault357714-32011
K. Alzner8121012+152400
D. Steckel575611-32401
J. Erskine724711+19401
M. Bradley604711-26800
S. Hannan7711011+43400
T. Fleischmann234610+31001
J. Schultz711910+61201
B. Gordon59369-41601
T. Poti21257-4800
T. Sloan33156-61400
J. Beagle30213-2802
A. Gordon9112-2000
D. King16022-33000
S. Collins3101+2001
B. Fahey7011-1200
B. Willsie1011+0000
K. Aucoin1000+0000
M. Neuvirth4727-11-410912602.49.913
S. Varlamov2711-9-5587592.23.924
B. Holtby1410-2-2223321.79.934