What do you do for an encore after scoring four goals your previous game? If you're Alex Ovechkin, you try to get 50 goals in a stretch of 50 games played.
Ovechkin enters the Washington Capitals' road game against the Florida Panthers on Friday night with 48 goals in his previous 50 appearances dating to March 17, when he scored against the Buffalo Sabres. That includes a four-goal performance against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday in Washington's 6-5 shootout victory. Ovi would need a hat trick against Florida to get 50 in 50 games played -- but the Panthers have always been one of his favorite victims. Ovechkin has 30 goals and 61 points in 47 career games against Florida; he was out with an injury when the Capitals won 3-2 in a shootout at home Nov. 2.
Here's a look at all of the action Friday:
New Jersey Devils at Pittsburgh Penguins -- Both teams are playing the front end of a back-to-back set; New Jersey plays an NHL-high 22 and the Penguins have 17. Cory Schneider will start in goal for the Devils. The Devils and Penguins have split two games this season, with each team winning at home. Each also faced the Columbus Blue Jackets in its previous game, but the outcomes were different: Pittsburgh edged the Blue Jackets 2-1 on Monday night; the Devils lost 5-4 at Columbus on Tuesday.
Washington Capitals at Florida Panthers -- Ovechkin and the Capitals may not have to face the Panthers' No. 1 goaltender, Tim Thomas, who left practice Thursday with an undisclosed injury. Coach Peter Horachek didn't know if Thomas would be available, and the Panthers called up Jacob Markstrom from San Antonio of the American Hockey League just in case. Ovechkin isn't the only Capitals forward who's been hot lately; center Nicklas Backstrom comes to South Florida after a five-point night against the Lightning -- he scored once and assisted on all four of Ovechkin's goals.
Edmonton Oilers at Vancouver Canucks -- The Oilers headed for the Pacific Northwest after a disappointing 4-2 home loss to the Boston Bruins on Thursday. Edmonton bounced back after surrendering three goals in the second half of the first period and dominated the last 40 minutes, but it wasn't enough to overcome the bad start. December has been kind to the Canucks so far; Vancouver is 5-0-0 this month, including a 3-0-0 mark on its current homestand. The Canucks have been off since a 2-0 victory against the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday; they'll have to resist the temptation to look past the last-place Oilers to a visit from the Bruins on Saturday night.
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