Washington Capitals Ready for Sunshine State Battle with Panthers and Lightning

Alan ZlotorzynskiCorrespondent IIIJanuary 11, 2011

WASHINGTON - JANUARY 08:  David Steckel #39 of the Washington Capitals battles for the puck with Radek Dvorak #14 of the Florida Panthers at the Verizon Center on January 8, 2011 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
Greg Fiume/Getty Images

The Washington Capitals are seemingly playing at home every time you look at the schedule.

That all changes beginning tonight, as the Capitals embark on a short two-game road trip starting tonight in Miami, where the Capitals take on the Florida Panthers.

From there Washington will travel to Florida's left coast and play the first-place Tampa Bay Lightning tomorrow night. The Caps have nine remaining games in January, and six of them are on the road.

The Capitals are starting a stretch of road games similar to the stretch they made last season at this time. Washington played 11 of its next 18 on the road and posted a record of 7-4, earning points in eight of the 11 contests.

It will be interesting to see how virtually the same squad plays this season during an almost identical stretch.

Washington has won its last three on the road and is 9-8-1 away from the nation’s capital this year. The Caps are 6-1-3 in their last 10.

Washington has had recent success in the Sunshine State. The Caps are 6-1 in their last seven visits to Florida’s BankAtlantic Center, and they’re 8-1 in their last nine games at the St. Pete Times Forum.

Both Florida teams have played the Capitals tough recently in Washington. Tampa shut the Capitals out last Tuesday in a 1-0 win. The Panthers are 1-1 in their last two games against the Caps.

Florida shut Washington out in early December 3-0 and lost last Thursday night 3-2.

The Capitals are expected to start Michael Neuvirth with back-to-back games, as the hot Semyon Varlamov will get the nod tomorrow night in Tampa. Tomorrow’s game will be another battle for first place.

Neuvirth is 2-7 in his last nine starts with a goals against of 2.55 and a save percentage of .905.

The Panthers are 8-8-2 at home this season and currently are in last place in the Southeast division with 38 points. Florida is currently 11th in the Eastern Conference, 11 points behind the eighth and final playoff spot.