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Florida Panthers Visit Washington Capitals: Game 52 Preview

The Panthers and the Capitals meet in Washington D.C. tonight in a skate off for the top spot in the Southeast Division.

Florida will be visiting the Washington Capitals tonight at the Verizon Center in the Chinatown district of Washington DC. This is the fourth meeting this season of six between the divisional rivals, and the second of three played in the nation's capital. The Panthers are 11-11-4 on the road, while Washington owns an 18-7-1 home record. Florida lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning, 6-3 on Saturday and return home to face the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday before hitting the road again to play the New Jersey Devils and the New York Islanders. Washington is in the second game of a three game homestand. They lost to the Boston Bruins, 4-1 on Sunday and go on to host the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday.

The teams met last Wednesday in Sunrise, as the Panthers skated to a 4-2 victory. Mikael Samuelsson scored the Panthers first two goals, Stephen Weiss added his 13th of the season in the third period and Shawn Matthias capped it with an empty netter for his ninth of the year. Tomas Fleischmann tallied two assists while Scott Clemmensen stopped 24 of 26 shots in the win. Brooks Laich and John Carlson scored for the Capitals, with Michael Neuvirth stopping 30 shots in the loss. Regarding Samuelsson's first goal from 100 feet out, Panthers coach Kevin Dineen was quoted after the game:

"You score from outside the blue line, you know what … sometimes you don't ask how. You're putting shots on the net. That's the kind of game we were looking for out of him. ... The two goals were nice, but I thought he had a really solid game. He looked refreshed, he was moving his feet. Good game from Mikael Samuelsson."

Capitals @ Panthers 02/01/12 (via NHLVideo)

The Panthers dropped a 6-3 decision in Tampa Bay on Saturday night. Martin St. Louis led the Lightning in his 900th career game by scoring his fifth career hat trick. Nate Thompson, Steven Stamkos and Vincent LeCavalier also netted goals for the Bolts while Mathieu Garon allowed three goals on only 17 Florida shots. Tomas Fleischmann, Mikael Samuellson, and Sean Bergenheim scored Florida's goals as Scott Clemmensen allowed five goals on 26 shots in taking the loss. Panther's goaltender Brian Foster made his first NHL appearance in relief near the end of the second period, stopping the only shot he faced. Forward Sean Bergenheim was quoted after the game regarding the Panthers performance, according to NHL.COM:

"I think today we were a tired team, and I don't think there's much else to it. We've got to forget about this one and just move on to the next game. I think we're all disappointed, but let's not think too much about it. We worked hard."

Panthers @ Lightning 02/04/12 (via NHLVideo)

The Caps dropped their last matchup, 4-1 on Sunday at home to the Boston Bruins. Marcus Johansson tallied the lone Washington goal, while Tomas Vokoun took the loss, allowing three goals on 29 Boston shots. Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand, and Rich Peverly scored for Boston, while all-star goaltender Tim Thomas stopped 35 of 36 Capitals shots. Johansson spoke with media after the game, according to NHL.COM:

"Last 10 minutes of the first period, we were playing really good and we had shot after shot, but just couldn't get the puck in. It's tough when you have those nights. It felt like we had enough chances to win the game. Sometimes it just doesn't bounce your way. Tonight was one of those nights."

Bruins @ Capitals 02/05/12 (via NHLVideo)

Season Series: 2-1-0

All-Time Series: 43-43-15

Game Time: 7:00 EST



Florida Panthers: 24-16-11, 59, points, first Southeast Division, third Eastern Conference, 15th NHL, on pace for 95 points. Last five: W-O-W-W-L

Washington Capitals: 27-21-4, 58 points, second Southeast Division, ninth Eastern Conference, 16th NHL, on pace for 91 points. Last five: W-O-L-W-L

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