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Holtby starts in net for struggling Capitals

by Ben Raby

ARLINGTON, Va. – One day after Washington Capitals general manager George McPhee singled out discipline and goaltending as two areas that must improve, Braden Holtby will start for the Capitals tonight against the Florida Panthers.

Holtby’s 4.74 goals-against average is last in the NHL among goalies with at least five appearances.

"Obviously everyone in here knows they can be better," Holtby said of the 2-8-1 Capitals. "But that’s in the past, it’s all in the past now. We have to move forward. Looking at how we’ve played in the past isn’t going to help us at this point. We’ve dwelled on that long enough to dig us into this hole, so right now our focus is on the next game, doing little things that we need to, treat it as just another hockey game and have patience."

The Capitals have lost three straight and five of six overall while the Panthers are 3-0-1 in their past four and have earned at least a point in three straight road games.

This game is the front-end of a home-and-home series with the teams meeting again Tuesday in Sunrise, Fla. The Capitals then face the Tampa Bay Lightning two days later.

"Having Florida and Tampa right around each other here, that can help get us into a little bit of a better spot," defenseman Karl Alzner said. "Right now, you have to think first things first and that’s to get yourself into a good position and get yourself into the playoffs, but obviously you want to beat your [Southeast Division] teams as much as you can and try to send whatever little message that you may be able to."

Here is Washington’s projected lineup for Saturday night against the Panthers:


Wojtek WolskiMike RibeiroAlex Ovechkin

Jason ChimeraNicklas BackstromTroy Brouwer

Eric FehrMathieu PerreaultJoel Ward

Matt Hendricks - Jay BeagleJoey Crabb

Karl AlznerMike Green

John ErskineJohn Carlson

Roman HamrlikTomas Kundratek

Braden Holtby

Michal Neuvirth

Notes: Marcus Johansson is expected to be a healthy scratch for the third time this season. The Capitals’ first-round selection in the 2009 NHL Draft (No. 24) has one goal and a team-worst minus-7 rating in nine games this season.

With Johansson scratched, Mathieu Perreault is set to return to the lineup after sitting as a healthy scratch for five straight games.

John Erskine returns to the blue line after serving a three-game suspension for an elbow to the head of Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds. Erskine’s return means that Roman Hamrlik is expected to be a healthy scratch for the eighth time in nine games.

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