Capitals-Panthers: Southeast Showdown as Florida Heads to Washington

Dave Nichols@@DaveNicholsDSPSenior Analyst IDecember 2, 2008

The Washington Capitals (13-8-3-29, first in Southeast) face the Florida Panthers (9-11-3-21, third in Southeast) in the first of six meetings between the two division rivals this season at 7 p.m. at the Verizon Center in Washington, DC.

The Caps closed out a very good month of November (8-5-2) with back-to-back shutouts—one for and one against—but look to continue their high scoring ways tonight versus the Panthers.

Alex Ovechkin on Monday was named the NHL's No. 1 Star for November after scoring 25 points in the month, including a 10-game point streak. After a slow start, Ovie is now tied for fifth in the league in scoring with a total of 30 points (13 goals, 17 assists). His plus-13 rating has him tied for third behind teammate and NHL No. 1 Star for October, Alexander Semin.

Despite having missed the last eight games with back and shoulder problems, Semin is still tied for seventh in scoring with 27 points (13 goals, 14 assists). The team has weathered the storm of injuries in the last couple of weeks but will still be without some of its most important players for tonight's game.

Along with Semin, center Sergei Federov and defensemen Mike Green, Tom Poti, and John Erskine are all expected to miss the Panthers game, and a decision about forward Boyd Gordon still has not been made.
Karl Alzner, who left the game in Columbus Saturday after a hard hit into the side boards, practiced Monday and should suit up, along with fellow recent call-ups Bryan Helmer and Sami Lepisto. They join Tyler Sloan as players who started with AHL Hershey now manning the Washington blue line.
Winger Tomas Fleischmann has been hot of late, scoring six of his nine goals in the last 14 games. He has points in four of his last five games.
Coach Bruce Boudreau plans to start Jose Theodore in net after he made 28 saves in the shutout win over Montreal on Friday. He's won three of his last four starts overall and owns a 1.77 GAA at home this season.
Tonight's lines:
Forwards
Ovechkin-Backstrom-Kozlov
Fleischmann-Nylander-Bradley
Laich-Steckel-Fehr
Brashear-Gordon-Mink

Defense
Lepisto-Morrisonn
Alzner-Jurcina
Sloan-Helmer

Florida enters this contest losers of two of their last three games, including an overtime loss to New Jersey and a shootout loss to the New York Rangers. The Panthers rebounded, however, against those same Rangers to earn a 4-0 shut out Saturday behind goaltender Craig Anderson Saturday night.

Anderson, normally the backup behind Tomas Vokoun, has been stellar this season, going 4-1-3 (1.87 GAA, .948 Sv%) in his 10 starts while Vokoun has struggled. His only regulation loss came to St. Louis back on Oct. 25. Anderson is 0-3 in his career against Washington.

The Panthers are one of the league's lowest scoring teams, averaging just 2.39 goals per game. Their task may be tougher for a while as David Booth, their leading scorer with 12 goals, injured his shoulder in the win over the Rangers and is out for tonight's game. No other Panther has more than six goals.

Washington is 9-0-1 at home this season, averaging 3.6 goals per home game.

SPECIAL TEAMS

WAS: PP-11th (19.8%, 20/101); PK-24th (79.0%, 25/119)
FLA: PP-27th (13.6%, 12/88); PK-11th (83.0%, 17/100)

INJURIES

WAS: D Karl Alzner (Shoulder-PROB); RW Chris Clark (Forearm-OUT); D John Erskine (Concussion-OUT); C Sergei Fedorov (Ankle-QUES); D Mike Green (Shoulder-IR); D Tom Poti (Groin-QUES); D Jeff Schultz (Finger-IR ); LW Alexander Semin (Back-IR): D Brian Pothier (Concussion-OUT)

FLA: RW Nathan Horton (Leg-IR); LW Cory Stillman (Concussion-IR); LW Richard Zednik (Arm-IR); D Bryan Allen (Knee-IR); LW David Booth (Shoulder-OUT); D Cory Murphy (Shoulder-IR)

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