Game Preview: Panthers at Capitals: Eastern Conference Best Square-Off

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Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Capitals return to the ice Tuesday night as they play host to the Atlantic Division leading Florida Panthers.  The game will feature the top two teams in the Eastern Conference.  Puck-drop is 7:30 PM

The Capitals have battled their former Southeast Division rivals twice this season. In the Caps  first meeting against the Panthers on October 31st, Evgeny Kuznetsov scored in overtime to give Washington a 2-1 victory.

On December 10th, the Panthers defeated the Caps 4-1 in regulation, in which former Caps player Jaromir Jagr notched his 731st goal of his career to tie Marcel Dionne for fourth place all-time in goals.

Washington Capitals:
The Capitals amassed an impressive 18-3-2 record at home, and prior to the 4-3 overtime loss against the Philadelphia Flyers, the team was on a twelve game win streak at home. Evgeny Kuznetsov and Nicklas Backstrom will return to the lineup after participating at the NHL All-Star weekend in Nashville. On Monday, Coach Trotz notified the media that Braden Holtby, who had also participated in the All-Star game festivities this past weekend, would be sitting-out the game against the Panthers, with Philipp Grubauer getting the start in goal. Alex Ovechkin will also miss the game, serving his one-game mandatory suspension for missing the All-Star game.

Florida Panthers:
The Florida Panthers have made a remarkable run this year, leading the Atlantic Division with a 29-15-5 record and currently hold second place in the Eastern Conference. Goaltender Al Montoya will start in net for the Panthers while Roberto Luongo sits out. Forward Jaromir Jagr and defenseman Aaron Ekblad participated in the NHL All-Star weekend alongside Luongo. The trio was a part of the Atlantic Division team that was voted on by the NHL fans. In the first game of the 3-on-3 tournament against the Metropolitan Division, Jagr and Ekblad each scored a goal to lead the Atlantic Division to a 4-3 win. They would end up losing to the Pacific Division in the final game of the tournament.

Conference Standings:

Capture

Flashback:
On December 16th, 2014, the Capitals played against the Panthers in Florida. The game was tied 1-1 after regulation so the teams went into overtime. No one scored in the OT so a shootout was required. After 20 rounds, the Panthers beat the Caps in the longest shootout in NHL history.

Key Injuries:
Marcus Johansson has been listed as “day-to-day,” according to Head Coach Barry Trotz. Johansson sustained an upper-body injury in the second period of the Capitals loss to the Philadelphia Flyers.  Johasnsson is unlikely to play in the game against the Panthers.

Jay Beagle and Brooks Orpik practiced at Kettler Iceplex on Monday. Barry Trotz recently told Isabelle Khurshudyan of The Washington Post that Orpik is “getting close” to skate with the team. Brooks Orpik has been out with a lower-body injury since November 10th. Jay Beagle has been out of the Caps lineup recovering from a hand injury.

Network Information:
The matchup between the former Southeast Division rivals will be broadcasted on NBCSN 7:30 pm Eastern time.

By Andrei Poleshchuk

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His passion for the Caps has grown over the decades, which has included time as a season ticket holder, social media and community organizer, and most recently led to the founding of NoVa Caps in 2014. Jon earned a Bachelor's of Science in Engineering at Old Dominion University, and is a Systems Engineer during intermissions, which has been instrumental in supporting his Capitals habit.
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