SUNRISE, Fla. — Tomas Vokoun finally will get the chance to play in his former home building Friday night, and in front of his wife and two daughters on top of that.
Jose Theodore, meanwhile, looks like he’ll be getting his first shot, period, at his former team.
While Florida coach Kevin Dineen wouldn’t confirm Theodore would be in the nets for a Friday night Southeast Division showdown against Washington, all indications are that for the first time in five meetings this season we’ll get the much-anticipated Theodore-Vokoun battle.
Theodore was signed by the Panthers last summer to replace Vokoun, who had been with the team since 2007-08, but the two didn’t face each other in the first four meetings.
Vokoun did face Florida twice and shut them out both times — 3-0 on Oct. 18 and 4-0 on Feb. 7 — but both games were at the Verizon Center.
When the Capitals played at Florida on Dec. 5 and on Feb. 1, Coach Dale Hunter went with Michal Neuvirth and Washington lost both times, 5-4 and 4-2.
“Those are coach’s decisions,” Vokoun said. “For me, when they tell me I’m playing, I’m playing. Sometimes you like the decision, sometimes you don’t. It’s a big game and you hope they have confidence in you to start you in a situation like that. That’s pretty much as far as I take it.”
As he’s done previously this season, Vokoun stayed at his house in the Fort Lauderdale area Thursday night after the Capitals flew in from Washington.
Vokoun battled the flu early in the week, but said Friday morning he felt fine after three days of practice.
He’s been hot of late, giving up only nine goals in his last five starts, with a 1.76 GAA and a .943 save percentage during that time. He’s been perfect against the Panthers, making 20 saves in the October meeting and a season-high 42 in the Feb. 7 game.
“He’s played really well against us the two games he’s played ... obviously, he hasn’t let a goal in,” said Florida center Shawn Matthias. “We’ve just got to get more pucks at him and just stand around. It’s probably not going to be a pretty one the first one, we’ll just try to get gritty and get under their skin a little bit and throw everything at them.”
On the other side, Theodore has yet to face the Capitals, for whom he played in 2008-09 and 2009-10.
The Panthers went with Jacob Markstrom in the first meeting this season, and Theodore missed the other three games with injuries. While with Minnesota last year, Theodore was the backup when the Wild beat the Capitals early in the season.
“Theo is not the biggest guy, but he’s going to try and come out a little bit and play the angle a little bit more,” said veteran Capitals forward Brooks Laich. “He’s pretty acrobatic, but a big guy can sit more in his net. A smaller guy has to come out and cut the angles a little bit more. Try and get as many pucks as we can, and certainly the most important thing is get traffic and try and make a smaller, shorter goalie battle through traffic.”
Given the significance of the game, the Vokoun-Theodore matchup won’t draw as much attention as it might have earlier in the season.
“That’s not my concern who’s the other goalie,” Vokoun said. “I’ve got my job. I’ve got to go focus on my job and we as a team have to focus on what we need to do to beat them. Whoever they play, they play. Just like I’m sure they’re not really worried who we’re playing.”