On Sunday night at Verizon Center, the Capitals will put the finishing touches on their 82-game regular season slate, a grind that began back on Oct. 13 in Pittsburgh with a 3-2 shootout loss to the defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins.
For the second straight season, the Caps have won the Metropolitan Division, the Eastern Conference and the Presidents' Trophy. While those are all fine accomplishments and the Caps should be rightfully proud of them - especially in a season in which the Metro was easily the league's most competitive division - they've got their sights set much higher. Later this week, the Caps will move into the Stanley Cup playoffs for the 29th time in their 42 seasons in the league, still seeking to claim the fabled Cup for the first time.
Video: Two-Man Advantage 4/9/17
But before they can do that, they need to face Florida to close the books on the regular season. There's nothing at stake for either side today; for all intents and purposes, Sunday's game against the Cats is a playoff tune-up for the Capitals and the last game in the string for the Panthers, who will miss the postseason for the 14th time in the last 16 seasons.
"I think we've got a good culture," says Caps coach Barry Trotz of playing a meaningless regular season finale against Florida. "We're at home, and we don't want to disappoint our fans. We want to take the same approach we had [in Saturday's 3-1 win over the Bruins in Boston], we just want to play with the right response in terms of let's play hard, let's play fast, let's manage the puck, let's have some detail and let's go from there.
"I don't see any issues with our guys. We're very locked in to playing the right way, and especially in front of our own fans. They deserve that."
Video: Trotz talks before the final game
In The Nets - A day after Philipp Grubauer earned his 13th win of the season with a 21-save outing against the Bruins in Boston, the Caps will go with Braden Holtby in goal for Sunday's regular season finale against Florida.
Holtby comes into Sunday's contest on the heels of a 2-0 shutout win over the New York Rangers on Wednesday. He took the league lead with his 42nd win of the season that night, too. Coming into the final day of the season, Holtby is tied for the league lead in victories with Edmonton's Cam Talbot. Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky has 41 wins and could get to 42 as well; Columbus is in Toronto to face the Maple Leafs on Sunday evening.
Lifetime against the Panthers, Holtby is 9-0-1 with a shutout, a 2.38 GAA and a .918 save pct. in 10 appearances.
Coming off a 30-save shutout on Saturday against the Buffalo Sabres in Sunrise in the Panthers' last home game of the season, James Reimer will get the net for Florida again on Sunday in Washington. Reimer will be making his 39th start of the season - matching Roberto Luongo for the team lead - and he will be seeking his 18th win of the season. Currently, he and Luongo each have 17 victories this season.
Reimer owns a 17-16-5 record with two shutouts, a 2.60 GAA and a .918 save pct. this season. Lifetime against the Capitals, Reimer is 2-4-2 with a 2.57 GAA and a .922 save pct. in eight appearances.
All Lined Up - We won't have much of a firm idea as to how either one of these teams will look when they take the ice on Sunday at Verizon Center. Neither side conducted a morning skate prior to the game, and both sides are likely to rest a handful of regulars. With all that in mind, here's how we expect the Caps to look and a wildly uneducated guess as to how the Panthers might look for Sunday's regular season finale:
8-Ovechkin, 19-Backstrom, 83-Beagle
90-Johansson, 92-Kuznetsov, 43-Wilson
28-Carey, 20-Eller, 65-Burakovsky
26-Winnik, 18-Stephenson, 76-Mitchell
74-Carlson (lower body, day-to-day)
11-Huberdeau, 21-Trocheck, 68-Jagr
18-Smith, 27-Bjugstad, 26-Vanek
81-Marchessault, 62-Malgin, 7-Sceviour
48-Sgarbossa, 17-MacKenzie, ?
1-Luongo (lower body)
16-Barkov (upper body)