Florida Panthers goaltender Craig Anderson will be facing one of his toughest challenges of the season Tuesday night as he opposes the Washington Capitals in his third straight start.
Anderson must overcome a winless career mark against the Capitals, beat one of the NHL's best home teams and stop reigning MVP Alexander Ovechkin.
"I want the ball, I want to be playing," said Anderson, who has never earned more than eight wins in his six seasons. "I'll be ready whenever called upon."
Anderson has been outstanding in back-to-back starts since replacing Tomas Vokoun in Florida's 3-2 overtime loss at New Jersey on Wednesday. He started for the first time in two weeks at home against the New York Rangers on Friday in the opener of a home-and-home series and made 43 saves in a 4-3 shootout loss.
He was even better at Madison Square Garden on Sunday, stopping 37 shots for his second shutout of the season in the Panthers' 4-0 victory.
Anderson is 4-1-3 with a stellar 1.87 goals-against average in 10 appearances this season, going 3-0-3 in his last six games since his only regulation loss at St. Louis on Oct. 25.
With Anderson leading the way, Florida (9-11-3) has points in four straight games for the first time this season. He is, however, 0-3-0 with a 2.68 GAA in three career starts against Washington.
As good as Anderson has been, he has received little support from one of the NHL's worst offenses. The Panthers rank near the bottom of the league with 2.39 goals per game and a 13.6 power-play conversion rate.
Florida can ill afford to lose left wing David Booth for any length of time. Booth - the team leader with 12 goals - suffered an injured shoulder in the first period of Sunday's win and returned for the second period but didn't play in the third. He is questionable for Tuesday.
Washington (13-8-3) has a 9-0-1 home record and averages 3.6 goals at the Verizon Center, but has scored 2.9 per game on the road in going 4-8-2, which includes Saturday's 3-0 loss at Columbus.
"We score goals - that's the big difference when we play at home," said Ovechkin, who had his 10-game point streak snapped.
Ovechkin, who had 11 goals and 11 assists during that run, had 25 points in November, earning the NHL's First Star for November. He is the second consecutive Capital to earn the league's top monthly honor following Alexander Semin in October.
Despite Ovechkin's production, Washington has lost four of its last six games but still had its first winning November (8-5-2) since 1999 with its most wins in the month since it had nine in 1996.
Jose Theodore likely will be back in net Tuesday after making 28 saves in a 3-0 win over Montreal on Friday. Theodore, who has won three of his last four overall starts, is 5-0-0 with a 1.77 GAA at home this season.
He is 4-3-0 with two ties and a 2.63 GAA lifetime against the Panthers.
Washington is 4-1-0 in its last five meetings with Florida, going 3-1-1 in the past five at home.