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Capitals aim for home-and-home sweep of Panthers

by Pete Jensen

CAPITALS (3-8-1) at PANTHERS (4-6-1)


Last 10: Washington 3-6-1; Florida 3-6-1.

Season series: Tuesday's clash is the second meeting of the season between the Capitals and Panthers and the back end of a home-and-home series. Washington, who enters the game with the fewest points in the NHL, blanked Florida, 5-0, on Saturday. The Southeast Division foes will meet twice more -- Mar. 7 at Verizon Center and Apr. 6 at BB&T Center -- to close out their season series.

Big story: The Capitals go for the home-and-home sweep of the Panthers when the team opens up a three-game road trip. Florida kicks off a four-game homestand, hoping to rebound after a lopsided loss to Washington.

Team Scope:

Capitals: Washington is winless on the road this season (0-4-1), but Caps’ coach Adam Oates can only hope his team’s stellar effort Saturday at Verizon Center paves the way to similar success away from home.

Washington ranks in among the League’s bottom-10 in both goals per game (2.50) and goals allowed per game (3.42), but the Capitals showed a sense of urgency early and often in building a 3-0 lead after two periods thanks to two goals from Troy Brouwer. Then, to cast off any hopes of a Panthers’ rally, Alex Ovechkin scored at the 3:49 mark of the third period following a face-off win by Mike Ribeiro. Jason Chimera instinctively sent a short touch pass off the deflection to Ovechkin, who cashed in from the slot.

It was exactly the type of cohesiveness and teamwork that the team has strived for during its early-season struggles. Oates hopes his team can sustain that play and duplicate its success on Tuesday in Sunrise, Fla.

"That's the correct way to play," Oates told the team's official web site. "We can't let one game get to our heads. These guys are pros. You bounce back, you enjoy it. [Tuesday] we have another game to play."

Panthers: Florida started the season slow due to front-line injuries and sub-par play on both ends of the ice, but the resurgence of goaltender Jose Theodore had a lot to do with the team’s four-game unbeaten streak (3-0-1) heading into Saturday’s road clash in Washington, D.C. All three wins during that stretch were credited to Theodore, who allowed a combined eight goals in that span.

But Saturday turned out to be a much different story, as the Panthers’ offense failed to convert all night long and Theodore surrendered five goals on 21 shots faced before being pulled in the third period. The Panthers outshot the Capitals, 27-25, but, after falling behind, Florida’s desperation just didn’t match that of Washington.

“The frustrating part is, we didn't give ourselves a chance and we've done that too many times this season,” Panthers’ defenseman Brian Campbell told the Miami Herald. “We knew [the Capitals] would come out and needed the points as bad as we did. We needed to match them. We didn't."

Who's hot: Ovechkin is quietly on a four-game point streak, with two goals and three assists over that span. … Tomas Fleischmann, despite being held pointless against his former team on Saturday, has accumulated two goals and four assists in his last six games for Florida.

Injury report: Marcus Johansson (upper body) did not practice Monday and will not travel with the team to Florida, according to the Washington Post. Jack Hillen (upper body) is out for the Caps. Brooks Laich (groin) practiced Monday and is traveling with the team, but his status for Tuesday’s game remains unclear. … Florida is expected to be without Sean Bergenheim (undisclosed), Scottie Upshall (ankle), Ed Jovanovski (knee) and Michael Caruso (wrist).

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