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Panthers get immediate opportunity for payback

by Alain Poupart

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers start an important four-game homestand Tuesday night and get an opportunity to avenge an embarrassing loss in their previous game.

The Panthers get another shot at the Washington Capitals, who shut them out 5-0 Saturday night at Verizon Center.

"For us, having come off a loss to them, a tough loss where it was a pretty lopsided score, that doesn't sit well with us," said Panthers goalie Scott Clemmensen, who is expected to get the start Tuesday. "We're looking forward to getting another crack at them."

The game brought a disappointing end to what otherwise was a productive four-game road trip for the Panthers. Before the loss at Washington, Florida had gone 2-0-1, with victories at the Buffalo Sabres and Philadelphia Flyers and an overtime loss at the Winnipeg Jets.

Defenseman Dmitry Kulikov said the Panthers need to tighten up their game Tuesday night -- literally.

"We were too spread out," Kulikov said. "Guys were swinging everywhere. Just clean up the neutral zone and get some pucks to the net. This guy is going to let in goals and we have to take advantage of their defense."

For the rematch against the Capitals, who have won the past four meetings while allowing three goals dating to last season, Panthers coach Kevin Dineen decided to shuffle his lines.

Kris Versteeg will rejoin Tomas Fleischmann and Stephen Weiss on the top line, with Peter Mueller rejoining rookies Drew Shore and Jonathan Huberdeau.

"I'm trying to win," Dineen said. "We're trying to win. I'm not worried about the shuffling. I'm not particularly concerned with what the players think of it either. I want production and for guys to go out there and find some chemistry that's going to work for this group."

From their end, the Capitals expected to see an energized Panthers team, particularly at the start of the game.

"You know they're going to be fired up," said Capitals wing Troy Brouwer, who scored the first two goals Saturday night. "You know they weren't happy with the way the game before went, so you're up against an over-excited hockey club and somebody that wants to get a little bit of revenge on you. It's a different mindset going into a type of game like this."

Forward Wojtek Wolski, who played 22 games for the Panthers last season after being acquired in a trade with the New York Rangers, will be making his return to Florida on Tuesday.

He's also expecting a spirited effort from his former team.

"They obviously had a tough game last game," Wolski said. "We know they're going to play hard, but we're not going to change anything. We're going to play the same way we did."

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