CAPITALS (24-12-6) at PANTHERS (18-20-2)
CSN-DC+ (HD), FS-F (HD)
Last 10 --
Capitals 6-1-3; Panthers 4-4-2
Season series --
This is the third of six meetings between the Southeast Division clubs this season and the second in the last three days. Washington beat Florida 3-2 last Saturday night at Verizon Center, but the Panthers beat the Caps 3-0 last month in Washington.
Big Story --
Washington can take back first place in the Southeast Division with a win at BankAtlantic Center. The Caps, who have owned the division for the last three seasons, trail Tampa Bay by one point and they have a game in hand. Washington hasn't lost in regulation since Dec. 18, going 6-0-2 since that 3-2 loss in Boston. Florida is hoping to snap a three-game losing streak.
Capitals -- Alexander Semin
's season started so promising, with 18 goals in his first 25 games, but he hasn't scored in the last 14 and now he's out of the lineup due to a leg injury suffered on a hip-to-thigh check from Steve Bernier in Saturday's win against the Panthers. Washington re-called right wing Brian Willsie from AHL Hershey on Monday. Willsie has 33 points in 36 games with the Bears this season.
The Capitals could welcome the return of defensive-minded center Boyd Gordon, who hasn't played since Dec. 12 due to a staph infection in his right foot. Gordon made the trip with the club and according to reports it's possible he could play Tuesday. Tuesday's game starts a stretch of seven of nine on the road before the All-Star break later this month.
"Every one means something," coach Bruce Boudreau told reporters after practice Monday in Arlington, Va. "It's not like Florida is 40 points behind or your next nearest competitor is 20 points back. I don't know if it's any easier to motivate, but there should be a lot of self-motivation rather than relying on me to motivate them."
Tuesday marks the first of six straight at home and the Panthers have to use the home-ice advantage to gain a lot of ground. They're last in the Southeast Division and 11 points behind the eighth-place Canadiens in the Eastern Conference. Florida has not been good enough at BankAtlantic Center. Its 8-8-2 home record is among the worst in the NHL. The Panthers have won only one of their last five home games.
"We're in the pack, and when you think where everyone told us we would be, guys have taken some pride in proving people wrong," Panthers coach Pete DeBoer told the Miami Herald. "We're not one of the two worst teams in the League. … No one is happy where we're at, from (general manager) Dale Tallon on down. We're all trying to fix it on a daily basis."
Who's Hot --
Caps forward Eric Fehr had a goal and an assist in Saturday's win against Florida, giving him 5 points in the last four games. Alex Ovechkin
stopped a two-game pointless streak with a goal and an assist in Saturday's win. … For Florida, David Booth
has a goal and 2 assists in the last two games, but he's also a minus-2 in that span. Mike Santorelli
has points in two straight games and in six of the last seven.
Injury Report --
Washington will be without Semin and Matt Bradley
. Gordon is questionable. … The Panthers played this past Saturday without Chris Higgins (lower body).
Stat Pack --
Washington is 22-0-2 when it scores three or more goals and just 2-12-4 when it doesn't. The Caps' penalty kill is ranked third in the NHL while the Panthers' power play is last. The Panthers have scored only 12 power-play goals all season.
Puck Drop --
"We're turning into more of a team that … can definitely do damage on the road," Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner
told reporters Monday. "We're not going to do anything special. We might bore a couple teams out there, but that's fine with us -- we just want those points."