The key to snapping out of a four-game losing streak for the Panthers tonight at BankAtlantic Center may very well rest on stopping the Capital’s superstar Alex Ovechkin.
“You’re looking at one of the better players in Ovechkin,” said GM and coach Jacques Martin. “He’s an exciting hockey player. He’s the type of player who brings fans out of their seats. He’s spectacular to watch. There’s no doubt for us tonight we have to keep him in check. You have to know when he’s on the ice. He’s the type of player who’s excellent one on one. He likes to drive wide, go to the net. This is our challenge tonight. To shut him down and win the game.”
The Panthers will get a big lift tonight when defenseman Bryan Allen and forward Richard Zednik return to the lineup. Allen has missed four consecutive games due to a concussion while Zednik was out the past two games with the flu.
Despite the four losses, Martin believes the Panthers can build on some good habits that developed in the past two games against Atlanta and Carolina.
“I think the keys to build on is what you’ve done the last couple nights,” Martin said. “I think our intensity has been much better. Our back pressure has been better. We’ve helped the defense coming back. That’s what we have to continue. A couple of other areas we have to be stronger? Along the boards at times and also I think a big thing is we can’t keep taking some of the penalties we’ve been taking. We have to force the opposition to take more penalties on us.”
Martin reiterated that the Panthers must commit themselves to playing better hockey.
“You have to look down the road,” he said. “A team like Tampa Bay, they lost six in a row and came back and won four games, big games. The answer is within the room. You’ve got 20 players on the team and you need 20 hockey players to carry their load and be committed. You look at our hockey team the last two years. Why did it take to mid December to turn things around? It’s not because we made a trade at that time. It’s because players made a commitment.”