Washington Capitals (47-22-11) vs. Florida Panthers (29-38-12)
Location: Verizon Center
Time: 7:00 PM
TV: Comcast SportsNet Plus (HD) (Game On!), (CSN+ Channel Finder), News Channel 8
Radio: 1500AM, 820 AM, and XM
Team Promotion: Spring Puck Surprise
Dec 9, 2010 FLA@WSH, 0-3 L
Jan 8, 2011 FLA@WSH, 3-2 W
Jan 11, 2011 WSH@FLA, 3-4 OTL
Mar 6, 2011 WSH@FLA, 3-2 W
Apr 9, 2011 WSH@FLA, 7:00 PM
Know The Enemy: Litter Box Cats
The Eastern Conference-leading Washington Capitals are coming off a shootout win over the Toronto Maple Leafs last night that vaulted them over the Philadelphia Flyers in the standings. If the Caps can win again tonight, they can be almost assured of home-ice advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs. Coach Bruce Boudreau has been tinkering with the lineup lately by choice or by necessity, and expect that tinkering to continue: the Caps lineup could feature four players who didn't play last night. None of it has seemed to matter much as the Caps are 14-2-1 since February 26.
Reduced to playing for pride, the Florida Panthers have lost 8 straight games and fell behind the Ottawa Senators for 15th place in the East last night. Besides a mass exodus of experienced players at the trade deadline, the Panthers are also dealing with a host of injuries, meaning the Caps will see a young opposing lineup playing for jobs next year. The Caps should be able to take advantage of backup goalie Scott Clemmensen and the inevitable rookie mistakes of his defense. If the Caps get the lead, they'll have a tough time clamping down. They will need to be vigilant as they are facing unfamiliar yet talented forwards trying to make a name for themselves.
Injury Report: Capitals' defensemen Mike Green (head), Dennis Wideman (leg hematoma), and Tom Poti (groin) are out, but Coach Boudreau indicated Green could return to game action this weekend. D Tyler Sloan (head) and RW Alex Semin (undisclosed) missed the Caps' last game and are day-to-day.
-The Panthers expect to be without G Tomas Vokoun (back spasms), C Stephen Weiss (groin), RW Rostislav Olesz (knee), C Scott Timmins (concussion),and RW Bryon Bitz (hernia). C Shawn Matthias (ankle) and D Alexander Sulzer (groin/hip) are questionable.
Three Things To Watch For:
Arnott Factor: Caps center Jason Arnott has provided timely offense lately and he has been big against the Panthers this season. With 3 goals in his last 5 games overall and 3 goals in 5 games against the Panthers this season, it's a good bet the veteran center will run roughshod over the inexperienced Panthers tonight. Look for Arnott to be a big factor on the powerplay and in the enemy crease as the Caps look to sew up the top spot in the East.
What Goalie Conundrum?: As the Caps have come down the home stretch into the playoffs, Michal Neuvirth has been shouldering the load and coming up with huge saves in clutch situations. The same cannot be said for Semyon Varlamov, who has been rusty in his return from injury. Look for Varly to get one more start before the playoffs, but don't expect him to take the reins in the playoffs, even if he has the experience advantage over Neuvi. Varly needs to tighten up his game to make an impression on the coaching staff, as he has been letting in questionable goals lately.
Waterbug Season: Shifty Russian winger Sergei Samsonov has been one of the few bright spots for the Panthers since the trade deadline. The 1998 Rookie of the Year had been struggling this season in Carolina (.45 points per game), but with 12 points in 15 games since arriving in Sunrise (.71 PPG), the change in scenery seems to be doing him some good. He has also been one of the few dangerous Panthers lately: he scored the Cats' last game-winning goal on St. Patrick's Day and he leads the Cats with 3 points over the last 5 games (in which they have 8 total goals, an average of 1.6 goals per game).