CAPITALS (46-14-9) at PANTHERS (28-29-10)
Last 10 --
Washington 5-2-3; Florida 4-5-1
Season series --
The Caps are looking to be perfect against the Panthers this season. They are 5-0 in the season series, including a come-from-behind win in the shootout on Jan. 13, the last time they played at Bank Atlantic Center. The other four games were decided by three goals or more.
Big story --
Washington superstar Alex Ovechkin
received a two-game suspension by the National Hockey League for his hit on Brian Campbell
in Sunday's game that reportedly left the Chicago defenseman with a broken clavicle and broken ribs. Ovechkin will miss Tuesday's game against the Panthers and Thursday's at Carolina. He's eligible to return Saturday at Tampa Bay.
Ovechkin might be banished from the next two games, but the Capitals have fared pretty well without their superstar this season. They are 6-2, including 3-0 against the Panthers. Ovechkin has already missed two games for suspension and six for injury. Washington has scored 36 goals in his absence and let's also remember they roared back from three goals down in the third period Sunday before eventually winning in overtime. Ovechkin is the key, of course, but these Capitals have proven they can sustain without him, too.
It's looking like Semyon Varlamov will get the start in net. He's just 1-2-1 in four starts since returning from his groin injury and has allowed at least three goals in each game. The Caps have won five of seven since the Olympic break. They were winless in three straight going into it.
Credit to the Panthers for once again staying in the playoff race by picking up their play in March. Florida has won four of six games since the Olympic break, including a 3-2 overtime win in San Jose on Saturday. The Panthers were down 2-0 after the first period, but Keith Ballard scored early in the second period and Shawn Matthias
tied the game with his goal 5:01 into the third. Matthias set up Bryan Allen for his OT-winner 2:46 into the extra session. Tomas Vokoun
made 37 saves for the win.
The Panthers have also beaten Philadelphia, Carolina and Minnesota since the break. This after going winless in all six games they played in February before the break.
Who's hot --
Sunday in Chicago, Washington center Nicklas Backstrom
helped set up the Caps' first goal, scored their second goal and made an amazing play to score the OT-winner as well. Mike Green
had two assists to give him 52 for the season. Green has six points in the last four games and 19 points in the last 14 games.
Injury report --
Washington is still without defenseman Milan Jurcina while the Panthers are without Nathan Horton and Byron Bitz.
Stat pack --
Backstrom on Sunday became just the third player in League history to record at least 55 assists in each of his first three seasons. The other two are Wayne Gretzky and Peter Stastny. Not bad company at all. Meanwhile, Green is one point shy of his second straight 70-point season. The last D-man to have back-to-back 70-point seasons was Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom, who had 73 points in 1999-2000 and 71 points in 2000-01.
Puck drop --
Ovechkin is now considered a repeat offender under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. This is his second two-game suspension of the season. He was previously suspended for a kneeing incident on Carolina defenseman Tim Gleason in late November.