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Red-hot Caps set to host Panthers

by Brian Compton
PANTHERS (29-38-12) at CAPITALS (47-22-11)


Last 10: Florida 1-6-3; Washington 7-2-1.

Season Series: This is the fifth of six meetings between the Southeast Division rivals. They've split the first four games, with Washington taking the most recent showdown on March 6, a 3-2 overtime decision at the BankAtlantic Center.

Big Story: Washington enters Wednesday's action in sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference thanks to a 3-2 shootout victory at Toronto, combined with Philadelphia's 5-2 loss at Ottawa on Tuesday night. The Caps are now two points ahead of the struggling Flyers with two games remaining in the regular season.

Team Scope:

Panthers: Florida has really struggled down the stretch, as its last victory came on St. Patrick's Day. The winless streak reached eight on Saturday, when the Panthers suffered a 4-2 loss to Pittsburgh at the BankAtlantic Center. It marks the franchise's worst slide since it went 12 straight games without a win during the 2005-06 season (0-8-4).

"I thought our effort was there," Florida coach Pete DeBoer said. "We played a good game. Again, though, you have to score to win in this League. Two is not enough. Two is double our normal output lately, but it's not enough to win."

Capitals: Washington moved ahead of Philadelphia when the third period ended at the Air Canada Centre on Tuesday night, but picked up a valuable second point when Mike Knuble beat James Reimer in the fourth round of the shootout to give the Caps a 3-2 victory. Washington also clinched the Southeast Division when the final horn sounded on Tampa Bay's 4-2 loss at Buffalo.

"We want to be in first everywhere, so it's nice," Caps star Alex Ovechkin said.

Who's Hot: Ovechkin scored his 31st goal of the season and 300th of his career on Tuesday night. He now has 2 goals and 3 assists in his last three games. 

Injury Report: Stephen Weiss (groin) is doubtful, while Tomas Vokoun (back), Shawn Matthias (ankle), Alexander Sulzer (groin), Scott Timmins (concussion), Rostislav Olesz (knee) and Byron Bitz (sports hernia) are all out for the Panthers. … Reports surfaced Tuesday night that Caps defenseman Mike Green (head) could return to the lineup on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Tom Poti (groin) is week-to-week and Tyler Sloan (undisclosed) and Dennis Wideman (leg) are out.

Stat Pack: Panthers forward David Booth appeared in his 300th NHL game on Saturday. Each one of those contests has been played with Florida.

Puck Drop: "When you score 300 goals in six years, it's a big accomplishment. I play for a great team." -- Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin

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