SUNRISE, Fla. -- The surging Florida Panthers will have forwards Aleksander Barkov and Scottie Upshall back in the lineup Tuesday when they face the Washington Capitals at BB&T?Center.
Upshall missed the past nine games because of an ankle injury; Barkov, the second pick in the 2013 NHL?Draft, missed six games with a hand injury.
"It's been a few weeks and I'm feeling good," Upshall said after the morning skate. "I've been practicing, had some good skates and I???feel ready. It's nice to jump back in the mix, especially when the team is playing good."
The Panthers (12-8-8)???are 5-2-2 in their past nine games and are tied with the New York Rangers for the last wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference with 32 points.
Florida is back home after going 1-1-1 on a three-game road trip against the St. Louis Blues, Detroit Red Wings and Buffalo Sabres.
Washington (14-10-5) comes in with four victories and an overtime loss in its past five games, matching its longest streak of the season without a regulation loss.
Even more impressive, the Capitals never trailed in any of their past five games.
"I think our attention to detail in the first 10 minutes of the game (has been key),"???forward Brooks Laich said. "We've been on the forecheck, we've been on the body and that's really resulted in offense, in goals. Getting that first goal, our team really gets into the game and then you look up 10 minutes into the game and the shots are 10-1 or 9-2. It really gives us energy and puts them on their heels and our starts have been crucial for us."
Goalie Braden Holtby is expected to make his 12th start in the past 13 games. He's allowed two goals or less seven times during that stretch.
"I'd much rather play every game,"???Holtby said. "I feel comfortable when I'm getting more action, more work. I feel like it's a little easier to get into a groove mentally because you're not worried about when your next start is going to be. You're just focusing on that game and doing what you can to give your team a chance to win."
Here are the projected lineups:
Alex Ovechkin – Nicklas Backstrom – Tom Wilson
Marcus Johansson – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Troy Brouwer
Brooks Laich – Eric Fehr – Joel Ward
Jason Chimera – Michael Latta - Jay Beagle
Brooks Orpik – John Carlson
Karl Alzner – Matt Niskanen
Nate Schmidt – Mike Green
Scratched: Andre Burakovsky, Jack Hillen
Injured: Aaron Volpatti (upper body), Dmitry Orlov (wrist), John Erskine (neck surgery)
Jonathan Huberdeau - Nick Bjugstad - Tomas Fleischmann
Sean Bergenheim - Dave Bolland - Brad Boyes
Jussi Jokinen - Aleksander Barkov - Jimmy Hayes
Scottie Upshall - Derek MacKenzie - Tomas Kopecky
Willie Mitchell - Dmitry Kulikov
Brian Campbell - Aaron Ekblad
Dylan Olsen - Erik Gudbranson
Scratched:?????????Shane O'Brien, Vincent Trocheck, Brandon Pirri
Injured: Shawn Thornton (lower body)
Status report: Thornton was placed on injured reserve, retroactive to Dec. 8. Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said Thornton was day-to-day. … Chimera will be back in the lineup after being a healthy scratch Saturday against the Tampa Bay Lightning. … Burakovsky, a 19-year-old rookie, will be a healthy scratch for the fourth time in five games. Trotz explained Tuesday the decision to have Burakovsky remain with the Capitals during the World Junior Championship instead of letting him play for Sweden. "We're in the process where we've got a stretch of games where they're going to be very competitive. I don't think we're going to stay healthy right through all those and we want to be able to have our best players in those situations. We're in the business of winning and we want to be able to use our best players to win. And Andre is one of our best players when it comes to young guys in our organization. We have high expectations for him."
Who's hot:?????????Fleischmann had two and three assists in Florida's past five games. … Fehr has three goals in the past five games, including one in each of the last two. … Carlson had an assist in each of the Capitals past four games.