Two games. Two nights.
A chance to define a season.
As GM and coach Jacques Martin said Friday morning, if players aren’t motivated by tonight’s game at BankAtlantic Center against the Capitals and Saturday in Carolina against the Hurricanes, “you’re in the wrong business.”
Sitting four points out of first-place in the Southeast Division, the Panthers could end the weekend with a share of first with victories over Washington and Carolina.
“I think (the games) are a four point swing,” Martin said. “It’s a chance for us, with tonight’s game and tomorrow night’s game in Carolina, to be tied in first place.
“There’s no need to explain how huge this game is.”
The Panthers received good news Friday morning. Rostislav Olesz, out of the lineup since Jan. 16 when stitches in his surgically repaired right hand were opened, will be back in the lineup as well Stephen Weiss
, who skated with the team after battling the flu the last two days.
“The last few days I haven’t felt great,” Weiss said. “Obviously, I’m excited about being back in the lineup.
The Panthers face a major hurdle tonight in facing the Capitals and the league’s leader in goals (48), power play goals (17), and points (78) and Alex Ovechkin. Ovechkin has scored a higher percentage of his team’s goals (29.3) and points (47.6) than any other player in the league. Ovechkin has five goals in his last six games and 10 in his last seven. The Capitals are 18-14-4 when Ovechkin scores a goal and 25-18-4 when he gets a point.
Oh, and he’s easily the most exciting player in the NHL.
“I think what’s at stake in pretty simple,” added Martin of the next 48 hours. “When you look at the standings, (these) are huge games. You understand we have 12 games remaining in our division and those games are four point games. You win tonight, you’re tied with them. You’re two points out of first place.
“When it comes to these games, if you don’t have the motivation as a player, you’re in the wrong business. These are games motivation shouldn’t be an issue.”
With Olesz and Weiss returning to the lineup, Stefan Meyer was sent back to the Panthers’ American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate in Rochester…One player who’s remained with the Panthers since being called up is center David Brine, who has an assist and is even after six games. “He’s good defensively, understands his responsibilities away from the puck,” Martin said.