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SKATE SHAVINGS - News and Notes from Caps' Morning Skate 4/1

Caps reach end of road in Florida -- again, seek to keep four-game streak going in wake of emotional win over Bolts, more

by Mike Vogel @VogsCaps / washingtoncaps.com

Mainline Florida - If it's April, this must be Florida. For the fifth time since the Panthers entered the NHL in 1993-94 and for the fourth time in the last 11 seasons, the Capitals will play their final road game of the season in Florida against the Panthers.

Since Florida entered the NHL, only Buffalo (four times) has been even close to Florida as a frequent spot for the Capitals' final road game.

Don't Let It Bring You Down - The Caps enter Monday's game with the Cats owning a four-game winning streak, but also seeking their first win of the season against Florida. Of the other 15 teams in the Eastern Conference, Florida is the only one the Caps have not defeated in 2018-19.

Washington enters Monday's game on the heels of an emotional 6-3 win on Saturday night over the Lightning in Tampa Bay. When the Caps last faced the Lightning on March 20 in D.C., they had an off-day the next day, and then delivered a rather flat performance in a 2-1 home ice loss to the Minnesota Wild, their most recent setback.

With a chance to clinch the Metro Division title on Monday in Florida if they defeat the Panthers and if the Islanders lose in regulation to the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Caps will need to guard against a similar letdown tonight.

"It's been a long year, and we are getting towards the end of the season," says Caps coach Todd Reirden. "That was an emotional game for us against Tampa. Our leaders did a phenomenal job in that game of getting our team on board right away, and I'm going to be leaning on them again tonight to at least set the tone against a really good Florida team.

Video: Todd Reirden Pregame | April 1

"So it will be a good challenge. We will take a look at some different things tonight lineup-wise, and with the goaltender, getting Pheonix [Copley] in there. So we will have some different combinations."

"It's tough," says Caps defenseman Matt Niskanen. "That was an emotional game against Tampa, and I thought we played really well and were fully invested into that. The guys played really hard, and we deserved to win. We'll try to follow it up again.

"I think these guys [the Panthers] have beaten us twice this year so we owe them. We'll try to get a big win here on the road and keep things rolling."

The Caps will have all players available to them for Monday's game, aside from injured defenseman Michal Kempny. T.J. Oshie and Brett Connolly each missed a game because of illness earlier in the trip, but Oshie returned to score two goals and rack up three points against the Lightning, and Connolly has been given a clean bill of health and is expected to return to the lineup tonight.

In The Nets - Pheonix Copley gets the net on Monday night for the Caps. At this time last year, Copley was up with the Capitals, and he stayed with the team through the playoffs as one of its "black aces." Midway through the season, he signed a three-year contract extension with Washington.

"It has been obviously a very fortunate year, and a lot has gone well," says Copley. "But you've got to take the good with the bad and I'm just trying to stay in the moment, keep getting better every day and I'm just happy to be around this group and this organization. I just want to work hard and do what I can to help this organization to win games."

Already possessing a strong work ethic, Copley took advantage of the two months of practice with the big squad during the playoffs last spring, and the hands-on work with Caps goalie coach Scott Murray. The big netminder has turned in an excellent first full season in the NHL, and he is aiming for his 17th win of the season tonight against the Panthers.

"I just want to make sure I'm keeping my focus and I continue to work with Scotty on getting better," says Copley. "He has been a big part of my development, and I'm really confident in the work that we do together. So I'm just trying to get better every day as I keep working with him. And then when I'm in there, I just want to win games and enjoy being a part of this group."

Copley carries a six-game personal winning streak into Monday's game against the Panthers, and he is 9-4-1 in 15 road games (14 starts) this season. Since the All-Star break, Copley is 6-0-0 in six starts with a 2.61 GAA and a .913 save pct.

Video: Two-Man Advantage | April 1

For Florida, we are expecting to see veteran netminder Roberto Luongo on Monday. Luongo has been in and out of the Florida lineup because of injuries this season, and will be making his 42nd appearance on Monday. The leader among all active goaltenders with 488 career wins, Luongo ranks third on the NHL's all-time list, trailing only Martin Brodeur (691) and Patrick Roy (551).

Since the All-Star break, Luongo is 7-5-3 in 16 appearances (13 starts), with a 2.99 GAA and a .905 save pct. Lifetime against the Capitals, he is 22-12-0 in 40 games, with two shutouts, a 2.42 GAA and a .923 save pct. Washington's last win over Luongo was nearly two and a half years ago, a 4-2 victory in the District on Nov. 5, 2016.

All Lined Up - Here's how we expect the Caps and the Panthers to look when they meet on Monday night for Washington's regular season road finale in Sunrise:

 

WASHINGTON

Forwards

8-Ovechkin, 19-Backstrom, 43-Wilson

62-Hagelin, 92-Kuznetsov, 77-Oshie

13-Vrana, 20-Eller, 10-Connolly

18-Stephenson, 26-Dowd, 65-Burakovsky

Defensemen

29-Djoos, 74-Carlson

9-Orlov, 2-Niskanen

44-Orpik, 3-Jensen

Goaltenders

1-Copley

70-Holtby

Injuries

6-Kempny (lower body)

Scratches

23-Jaskin

34-Siegenthaler

72-Boyd

 

FLORIDA

Forwards

11-Huberdeau, 16-Barkov, 63-Dadonov

68-Hoffman, 21-Trocheck, 8-Hawryluk

72-Vatrano, 95-Borgstrom, 7-Sceviour

73-Hunt, 15-Sheahan, 22-Brouwer

Defensemen

19-Matheson, 5-Ekblad

3-Yandle, 52-Weegar

13-Pysyk, 2-Brown

Goaltenders

1-Luongo

33-Montembeault

Injuries

17-MacKenzie (shoulder)

Scratches

12-McCoshen

25-Keeper

34-Reimer

62-Malgin

88-McGinn

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