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Washington Capitals Visit Florida Panthers: Game 57 Preview

Florida and Washington have each earned two wins against each other this season, and Florida owns a four point lead for the division title. Can the Panthers get some breathing room over the sleeping giant?

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 07:  Matt Bradley #22 of the Florida Panthers battles for the puck against Jason Chimera #25 of the Washington Capitals at the Verizon Center on February 7, 2012 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 07: Matt Bradley #22 of the Florida Panthers battles for the puck against Jason Chimera #25 of the Washington Capitals at the Verizon Center on February 7, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
Getty Images

Florida will be hosting the Washington Capitals today at the Bank Atlantic Center in Sunrise. This is the fifth of six meetings this season between the division rivals, and the last of three in Florida. Florida has a 14-6-7 home record, while the Caps sport a 9-15-3 record away from Washington. Florida is in the second game of a four game homestand. They dropped their first game, 6-2 to the Ottawa Senators, and go on to host the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday, and the Minnesota Wild next Thursday. The Capitals are starting a four game roadtrip. After the game tonight, they go on to visit the Tampa Bay Lightning tomorrow, the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday, and the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday. They are losers of three straight and eight of their last 11.

The Capitals shut out the Panthers in their last meeting on February 7th. Mathieu Perrault (9) scored the game winner just 13 seconds into the game. Alex Ovechkin (21, 22) added a power play goal in the first and an even strength marker in the second, and Jason Chimera (15) pitched in with a shorthanded goal. Scott Clemmensen allowed all four goals on only 24 Washington shots for the loss. Tomas Vokoun marked a triumphant return to the Bank Atlantic Centre with his 48th career shutout, and fourth this season. The Panthers Matt Bradley talked about battling back after the game,

"It was a couple times, obviously, getting scored on so quickly at the start of the game [and to start the second] is tough but part of being a good team is being able to battle back and forgetting whether you score or get scored against -- you've got to play the same way."

Panthers @ Capitals 02/07/12 (via NHLVideo)

Florida was shut down in their last game, a home loss to the Ottawa Senators, 6-2. Jim O'Brien (1), Kaspars Daugavins (4), Bobby Butler (6), Daniel Alfredsson (20), Milan Michalek (25) and Filip Kuba (5) all scored for the Senators. Shawn Matthias (10) scored in the first for Florida, and Sean Bergenheim (12) added a power play marker in the third for Florida. Craig Anderson stopped 42 of 44 Panthers shots, improving to 7-0-1 against his former team. Scott Clemmensen allowed four goals on 16 shots through the first two periods, and was pulled to start the third by coach Kevin Dineen in favor of Jose Theodore. Theodore allowed two goals in 15 shots. Dineen talked about the snowball rolling downhill after the game,

"Tonight was not a very good showing by us," Florida coach Kevin Dineen said. "We had a decent first period but in the second, bang-bang, a couple of goals against and the rain kept falling from there. A very disappointing game in front of our home fans."

Senators @ Panthers 02/15/12 (via NHLVideo)

Washington lost to the San Jose Sharks at home on Tuesday night, dropping their third straight game. Joe Pavelski (21, 22) and Patrick Marleau (21, 22) each scored twice for the Sharks. Braden Holtby allowed all five goals on 35 shots to take the loss. Thomas Griess earned the victory, stopping 39 shots while allowing goals to Dmitry Orlov (2), Roman Hamrlik (2), and Jeff Schultz (1). After the game, Caps coach Dale Hunter explained his choice of goaltender,

"Neuvy played the night before there, so we figured he hasn't played much of back-to-backs, so Holtby was ready to go," Hunter explained, "So we tried him."

Season Series: 2-2-0

All-Time Series: 43-44-15

Game Time: 7:30 ET



Florida Panthers: 27-18-11, 65 points, first Southeast Division, third Eastern Conference, 13th NHL, on pace for 95 points. Last five: L-W-W-W-L, Playoff chances: 82.7%

Washington Capitals: 28-23-5, 61 points, second Northeast Division, ninth Eastern Conference, 18th NHL, on pace for 89 points. Last five: L-W-O-L-L Playoff chances: 61.6%

Photographs by, thelastminute, turtlemom nancy , fesek, kthypryn, justinwright, sue_elias, pointnshoot, and scrapstothefuture used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.