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Caps Clash with Cats

Washington takes a one-game trek to South Florida to take on the Panthers

by Mike Vogel @VogsCaps / washingtoncaps.com

Nov. 7 vs. Florida Panthers at BB&T Center

Time: 7:00 p.m.

TV: NBCSW

Radio: Capitals Radio 24/7, 106.7 FAN

 

Washington Capitals 11-2-3

Florida Panthers 7-3-4

The Caps take their four-game winning streak with them to South Florida on Thursday when they make the first of two visits to Sunrise to take on the Panthers. Washington has earned at least a point in each of its last six road outings (5-0-1).

With a 4-2 win over the Calgary Flames on Sunday, the Caps ran their winning streak to four for the second time this season. Washington's current four-game streak and its previous four-game run are separated only by a 4-3 overtime loss to the Oilers in Edmonton on Oct. 24.

Washington has scored three or more goals in 13 straight games, and it is 1-0-1 in the two games this season in which it failed to score three goals.

Throughout much of the season, the Caps have also yielded a fair amount of goals. Washington has permitted an average of 3.06 goals against per game this season, which puts it right in the middle of the league, at 16th overall. But for the first time since the first two games of the season, the Caps have limited their foes to two or fewer goals in consecutive games, a 6-1 win over Buffalo and Sunday's victory over the Flames.

"I think we're improving as we go here for sure," says Caps goalie Braden Holtby. "It's one of those things where it's going to take a while for it to work perfectly, and it takes a lot of attention to detail in order to do that. So far this season, it seems like we've gotten better, taken a couple of steps back, got better - but we're still pushing in the right direction, and that's a good sign. I think it's going to be a big benefit in the long run, just to have more tools in your toolbox."

Of the three goals Washington has yielded in the last two games, the first came on a bounce off a Caps defenseman, the second came as the direct result of a Washington turnover, and the third was on a good deflection in front. The Caps have seemingly defended better at 5-on-5 since the Canucks scored four even-strength goals against them on Oct. 25 in Vancouver.

Video: Todd Reirden | November 6

"It seems like it has been a better five-man group on the ice," says Caps coach Todd Reirden, "than we've had at different points early in the season, where we've been still just a step off from being exactly where we should be, and it's costing us a few goals. So I think we're getting closer to that. By no means are we done, but obviously a move in the right direction with those last two games."

Although the Panthers have won half of their first 14 games (7-3-4) this season, they've earned points in 11 of 14 as they vie for a return to the postseason for the first time since 2016. Since losing two of their first three games in 2019-20, the Panthers have earned points in 10 of 11 (6-1-4). Florida is 1-3 in the shootout and it is 1-1 in overtime games this season.

With the offseason retirement of franchise legend Roberto Luongo, the Panthers opened up their wallet for the biggest fish on the goaltending market, landing two-time Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky for seven seasons at an annual salary cap hit of $10 million. After a couple of rocky starts early on, Bobrovsky has won three straight starts heading into Thursday's game, and he has helped his team to points in eight straight (5-0-3).

Up front, Florida is paced by its top line of Jonathan Huberdeau, Sasha Barkov and Evgeni Dadonov. That trio has combined to score 17 goals - including 13 at even-strength - in the Panthers' first 14 games this season.

Ex-Caps winger Brett Connolly mans the right side of Florida's second line, with Mike Hoffman and recently signed veteran pivot Brian Boyle. Hoffman and Connolly are both top sharpshooters in the NHL, and they've combined for 11 goals between them. All five of Connolly's goals this season have come at even strength.

Boyle stepped into the middle of that unit after Vincent Trocheck went down with a lower body injury. Trocheck has missed half a dozen games, and the Caps won't mind if he misses another on Thursday. Over the course of his NHL career, Trocheck has recorded more points (15) against Washington than against any other opponent. He has seven goals in 13 games against the Capitals, including a couple of game-winners.

Video: Caps 365 | November 6

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