SUNRISE – Panthers coach Peter DeBoer was asked Tuesday morning if he would have preferred the Capitals come to BankAtlantic Center this evening having won Monday in Atlanta rather than lose 5-1.
“It would have been nice if they won seven or 8-0, had a little party, and put their feet up,” he said.
The Panthers will instead face a Capitals team that’s likely to be “upset,” according to DeBoer, and one with Mike Green and Sergei Fedorov returning from the flu and Alex Ovechkin looking for his 50th goal of the season.
“I’m sure we’re going to see their best,” DeBoer said.
The Panthers will have to be at their best as they try to snap a three-game losing streak – their first since Dec. 27-31 – and try to get back inside the top eight in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
The Panthers, 34-25-10 (18-9-6 at home), go into tonight’s game ninth in the conference but only a point out of eighth and only four points from fifth. With four games remaining in this homestand, and 13 games left in the season, the Panthers need to start accumulating points.
“With 13 games left, and with the spot we’re in, there’s not a lot of room for error,” said Stephen Weiss
DeBoer did the math.
“We have 13 games left and I don’t think it’s any secret we’re going to have to play at least a few games above .500 during that stretch,” he said. “How we do it? Whether it’s lose four in a row and win the next nine, or (play .500) and win the last three, it doesn’t matter. It’s where we are 13 games from now.”
Despite losing their past three games, two in shootouts, DeBoer said there aren’t “sirens going off in the room because our play is faltering.” In fact, the Panthers outchanced both the Sabres and Lightning in their last two games.
“We’ve hit a couple injuries and some tough luck around both nets, ours and theirs,” he said. “We’ve got to fight through it.”
The good news for the Panthers is defenseman Bryan McCabe will return to the lineup tonight after missing the previous three games with a fractural orbital bone. McCabe will play with a full cage protected his face.
The Panthers continue to lead the league in goals from their blue line with 43, but they have struggled a bit in that area recently. Jay Bouwmeester has only one goal in his last 18 games, Keith Ballard has one in his last 16 and McCabe has two in the 16 games he played before getting injured. CAPS GOING WITH THEODORE
Despite getting pulled in the second period after allowing four goals in the Caps 5-1 loss Monday in Atlanta, coach Bruce Boudreau said immediately after the game he would come back tonight with Jose Theodore
Boudreau didn’t fault Theodore for Monday’s loss. “I’m sick and tired of him bailing our team out and him not getting the support that he deserves,” said Boudreau after the game.
Theodore is 27-15-4 with a 2.87 goals against and .900 save percentage. Theodore is 11-10-3 in his career against the Panthers with a 2.55 goals against and .914 save percentage.VOKOUN TO BE HONORED
Tomas Vokoun will be honored before this evening’s game for becoming only the 53rd goalie to play in 500 NHL games. Vokoun, who played March 7 in his 500th game, will be presented with a Tiffany Crystal, a two-night stay for his family at the Fountainbleau Hotel, and a framed plaque by assistant captains Bryan McCabe, Stephen Weiss
and Cory Stillman commemorating his first, 250th and 500th NHL games. Vokoun will be joined at center ice by his wife, Dasha, and daughters Adelle and Natalie.NOTES
Defenseman Nick Boynton and Anthony Stewart will be the healthy scratches this evening…This will be the fifth meeting between the Panthers and Capitals. The series is tied at two, with the Panthers winning the last game 6-2 March 1 in Washington…Along with looking for his third, 50-goal season, Ovechkin could set an NHL record for shots on goal in a season. Ovechkin currently has 453 shots, 97 shot of the record set by Phil Esposito in 1970-71.