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Caps try to rebound from rare regulation loss @NHL

CAPITALS (8-3-4) at PANTHERS (5-7-1)

Last 10: Washington 6-1-3; Florida 4-5-1

Season series: This is the first of six meetings this season. Last year, each squad won three games and all were decided by two or more goals. Also, each team won two road games. Alex Ovechkin led all scorers with 9 points in the season series. Alexander Semin and Nicklas Backstrom added 7 points apiece for Washington. The Panthers were led by Michael Frolik and Bryan McCabe, who each scored 3 goals and 7 points.

Big story: This will probably be Washington's second contest without the great Ovechkin, felled by an upper-body strain that will keep him out week-to-week. A big gun like Ovi, the NHL leader with 14 goals in 14 games, could have made all the difference in a one-goal loss against New Jersey on Wednesday.

Team scope:

This is the second game in Washington’s two-game road trip. They lost at New Jersey 3-2 on Wednesday.

During the contest, Ovechkin did a between-periods television interview and stated, "Soon you are going to see me again, soon." Does that mean Friday, or perhaps Saturday at home against the Panthers? Anything is possible with Ovi.

"Offensively you can't rely on one guy all the time, but you're taking a full goal a game out of your lineup," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. "There is no getting around the fact that we're going to miss him. He is the best in the world."

Panthers: This is the second game in Florida’s two-game homestand. Overall, the Panthers have won three straight, the last two via shutout against St. Louis last Saturday and Carolina on Wednesday.

Tomas Vokoun has been in net for the two shutouts, stopping a total of 66 shots. Including the end of Scott Clemmensen’s 6-5 shootout win against Dallas on Oct. 30, the Panthers are riding a shutout streak of 137 minutes, 7 seconds.

"I'm benefiting from the play in front of me," Vokoun said. "I feel good, but it definitely helps me to be able to focus on that one shot. I don't have to worry about what's going to happen next. It's a little easier to read the game for me then at the start of the season.
"When you see the puck well you don't have to go out as far, you react to it and catch it. If I don't see it, the tendency is to get out a little more. You have the benefit of a better angle, but it's hard to recover for the rebounds. With the confidence I have, there's a little more calmness and I can put the rebound where I want."

Who's hot:
For the Capitals, defenseman Mike Green has 2 goals and 9 assists in his last 10 games, center Nicklas Backstrom has 2 goals and 5 assists in his last five games, and winger Tomas Fleischmann has 3 goals and an assist in his last three games. For the Panthers, right wing Nathan Horton has a goal and 6 assists in his last four games, defenseman Jordan Leopold has a goal and 3 assists in his last four games, and defenseman Dennis Seidenberg has a goal and 3 assists in his last three games.

Injury report:
For the Capitals, defenseman John Erskine (hand) and right wing Boyd Gordon (back) are on injured reserve, left wing Alex Ovechkin (upper-body) is week-to-week, and right wing Eric Fehr (rib) is day-to-day. For the Panthers, left wing David Booth (concussion), winger Radek Dvorak (knee) and winger Nick Tarnasky (orbital bone) are on injured reserve, and center Dominic Moore (nasal surgery) is day-to-day.

Stat pack:
Eleven of Washington’s 15 games have been decided by one goal. The Capitals have not lost -- in the regular season or preseason -- by more than one goal…Washington has scored first in 12 of 15 games this season…With an appearance tonight, Panthers defenseman Bryan McCabe is slated to become the 247th player to reach the NHL milestone of 1,000 career regular-season games.

Puck drop:
"I'm not sure we’re exactly where we want to be yet, but it’s definitely growing," Panthers coach Pete DeBoer said. "I think that with every game, every time we get rewarded for doing things the right way, you get that sense … we're definitely in a better place than we were seven days ago."

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