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Capitals at Panthers preview

Washington can improve on NHL-best 7-1-1 road mark; Connolly to face former team for Florida

by Alain Poupart / Independent Correspondent

CAPITALS (11-2-3) at PANTHERS (7-3-4)



The Game

The Washington Capitals seek their fifth consecutive victory and ninth in 10 games when they visit the Florida Panthers at BB&T Center on Thursday.

The Capitals, with the best road mark in the NHL at 7-1-1, can win eight of their first 10 games of a season away from home for the third time in their history and first time since they were 8-2-0 in their first 10 road games in 2015-16; they also opened 8-2-0 on the road in 1991-92.

Forward Jakub Vrana has five goals in Washington's past two games, including a hat trick in a 4-2 victory against the Calgary Flames on Sunday, and nine points (six goals, three assists) in a five-game point streak.

Panthers forward Brett Connolly will face his former team for the first time since signing a four-year contract with Florida on July 1. Connolly has 10 points (five goals, five assists) in 14 games with the Panthers.

Florida, which looks to win its third straight, is 5-1-1 in its past seven games. 

Defenseman Mike Matheson will return after missing five games because of a lower-body injury.


Players to watch

Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin has 18 points (10 goals, eight assists) in his past 13 games and 78 points (36 goals, 42 assists) in 63 games against Florida.

Panthers center Aleksander Barkov has 11 points (two goals, nine assists) in his past six games.


They said it

"So far this season, it seems like we've gotten better, taken a couple of steps back, got better, but we're still pushing in the right direction, and that's a good sign. I think it's going to be a big benefit in the long run, just to have more tools in your toolbox." -- Capitals goalie Braden Holtby 

"[The Capitals] play the right way, they've got some pace to their game. We've got to play a perfect game tonight. It really is a good test for us." -- Panthers coach Joel Quenneville


Capitals projected lineup

Alex Ovechkin -- Nicklas Backstrom -- T.J. Oshie

Jakub Vrana -- Evgeny Kuznetsov -- Tom Wilson

Carl Hagelin -- Lars Eller -- Garnet Hathaway

Brendan Leipsic - Chandler Stephenson -- Travis Boyd

Michal Kempny -- John Carlson

Dmitry Orlov -- Radko Gudas

Jonas Siegenthaler -- Nick Jensen

Braden Holtby

Ilya Samsonov

Scratched: Tyler Lewington

Injured: Richard Panik (upper body), Nic Dowd (lower body)


Panthers projected lineup

Jonathan Huberdeau -- Aleksander Barkov -- Evgenii Dadonov

Mike Hoffman -- Brian Boyle -- Brett Connolly

Frank Vatrano -- Denis Malgin -- Mark Pysyk

Dryden Hunt - Dominic Toninato -- Colton Sceviour

MacKenzie Weegar -- Aaron Ekblad

Mike Matheson -- Anton Stralman

Keith Yandle -- Josh Brown

Sergei Bobrovsky

Sam Montembeault

Scratched: None

Injured: Noel Acciari (lower body), Vincent Trocheck (lower body), Jayce Hawryluk (upper body)


Status report

Dowd will miss his third consecutive game but will take part in the pregame skate and would play if a need arises. … Acciari and Trocheck each is day to day. … Toninato was recalled from the Springfield of the American Hockey League on Wednesday and will make his Panthers debut in Acciari's spot on the fourth line. … Sceviour will play in his 400th NHL game.


Stat pack

Kempny has six points (two goals, four assists) in his past four games. … Huberdeau has 10 points (six goals, four assists) in his past six games. … The Panthers have won the last four meetings, including a 3-0-0 record last season.

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