Florida at Washington Preview: Capitals Clash With Panthers On Wednesday

Patrick McDermott:Getty ImagesPhoto: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

The Washington Capitals take on the Florida Panthers on Wednesday night in the second meeting of the season between the two teams. The Capitals beat the Panthers by a score of 5-4 in overtime on November 7, the first time the teams met in 2019-20, but have lost four consecutive home games to the Panthers including the last two beyond regulation. Action from Capital One Arena can be seen on NBC Sports Washington beginning at 7 PM ET.

Panthers

The Panthers hit the road for the second time in a span of 16 games before they begin a season-long nine-game homestand when they visit the Capitals on Wednesday night. They have not won a road game in regulation since October 27 but are 3-3-0 away from BB&T Center during that stretch, having picked up three victories in extra time. The Panthers are 6-4-3 on the road this season.

After missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the third consecutive season in 2018-19 and a busy offseason, the Panthers find themselves sitting second in the Atlantic Division with 29 points entering Wednesday’s contest. Though, they have dropped two straight games after a three-game winning streak and a stretch where they won five of their previous six games (5-1-0).

After setting career-highs in assists (62) and points (92) lasts season, forward Jonathan Huberdeau leads the Panthers with 30 points in 24 games this season. Center Aleksander Barkov, who led the Panthers with 61 assists and 96 points in 2018-19, leads the team with 22 assists and is one point behind Huberdeau for the team lead. Forward Brett Connolly, who will return to Capital One Arena for the first time since signing a four-year contract in Florida after three seasons with the Capitals, leads the Panthers with 11 goals this season.

The Panthers’ average of 3.54 goals-per-game currently ranks third in the league while their 85 goals are second. Their 24.6% power-play efficiency is fifth while their 83% penalty-killing rate is 14th. Florida’s average of 33.9 shots-per-game is the fifth-highest in the league while their average of 31 shots against per game is tied with the Minnesota Wild for 12th.

Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, who is 9-5-4 with an .888 save percentage, a 3.45 goals-against average, and one shutout after signing a seven-year contract with the Panthers that carries a cap hit of $10 million, will likely start on Wednesday night. In 26 career games against the Capitals, the 31-year old is 9-11-5 with a .901 save percentage, a 2.98 goals-against average, and one shutout. Bobrovsky made 26 saves in the Capitals’ 5-4 overtime victory in Florida three weeks ago.

Capitals

The Capitals continue a three-game homestand on Wednesday after falling 2-1 in a shootout to the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday. While they have earned points in 10 of their 12 home games this season, they have a record of 6-2-4 at Capital One Arena. After a rough start at home, they have gone 6-1-2 in their past nine there. The Capitals currently lead the league with 37 points, though they have gone 3-2-2 in their last seven games after winning six in a row.

Defenseman John Carlson’s 36 points currently lead NHL defenseman and are tied with Boston Bruins forward David Pastrnak for the fourth-most in the league. The 29-year old saw his eight-game point streak come to an end in the Capitals’ 2-1 shootout loss to the Canucks on Saturday, a stretch that began with a three-point outing against the Panthers on November 7. His +15 rating is tied for the fifth-best in the league this season. Captain Alex Ovechkin leads the Capitals with 15 goals, which is currently good for sixth in the league.

The Capitals’ 88 goals this season lead the NHL while their average of 3.52 goals-per-game is tied with the Colorado Avalanche for the fourth-most in the league. Their 23.8% power-play efficiency is tied with the St. Louis Blues for the sixth-best while their 83.1% penalty-killing rate is tied with the Ottawa Senators for 12th. The team’s 50.5% faceoff-winning percentage is tied with the Senators for 10th.

Center Nicklas Backstrom will miss his third consecutive game with an upper-body injury and forward Garnet Hathaway will serve the final game of a three-game suspension for spitting on Anaheim Ducks defenseman Erik Gudbranson in the Capitals’ 5-2 win over the Ducks on November 18. Forward Carl Hagelin skated without a no-contact jersey on Monday, but he remains on long-term injured reserve and will not be eligible to return until the December 3 when the Capitals visit the San Jose Sharks. Center Nic Dowd, who has missed the past five games with a hand injury, is expected to return against the Panthers on Wednesday night.

Goaltender Braden Holtby, who is 11-2-4 with a .908 save percentage and a 2.85 goals-against average this season, will get the nod against Florida on Wednesday night. In 16 career outings against the Panthers, the 30-year old is 11-2-2 with a .905 save percentage, a 2.86 goals-against average, and one shutout. He made 32 saves in the Capitals’ 5-4 overtime win in Florida earlier this month.

Shavings

  • Forward Jakub Vrana is one point shy of 100 in his career
  • Holtby has posted a record of 10-1-2 over his last 13 games; Since Oct. 18, when the span first began, Holtby has recorded a 2.41 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage, ranking eighth and seventh, respectively, in the NHL among goaltenders with at least 10 games
  • The Capitals are the only team in the NHL with at least four double-digit goal scorers (Ovechkin, Vrana: 11, Forwards T.J. Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov: 10)

By Harrison Brown

About Harrison Brown

Harrison is a diehard Caps fan and a hockey fanatic with a passion for sports writing. He attended his first game at age 8 and has been a season ticket holder since the 2010-2011 season. His fondest Caps memory was watching the Capitals hoist the Stanley Cup in Las Vegas. In his spare time, he enjoys travel, photography, and hanging out with his two dogs. Follow Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonB927077
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