NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Friday, January 29th (All times eastern)
Florida Panthers (23-21-9) at Washington Capitals (35-12-6), 7 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The red-hot Washington Capitals will try to move one step closer to a franchise-record winning streak when they welcome the Florida Panthers for tonight's Southeast Division battle at Verizon Center.
Washington has won eight in a row to match its longest winning streak since the 1983-84 Capitals set a club record with 10 consecutive victories from January 27-February 18 of that season. With Wednesday's win against Anaheim, the Caps recorded their first eight-game winning streak since March 9-26, 1989.
The recent run of wins has turned the battle for the Southeast Division title into a one-team race. Washington leads the division, and the Eastern Conference, with 76 points, while Atlanta is second in the Southeast and 20 points behind the Caps. Florida is third in the division with 55 points.
Washington has won all four meetings with the Panthers this year and has taken five of six overall in the series. Florida has lost two straight and three of four in D.C.
The Caps burned the visiting Ducks by a 5-1 score as Alexander Semin had his second straight two-goal game to lead the home team to the easy win.
Semin, who scored two goals in Tuesday's 7-2 romp of the Islanders, has a seven-game point streak with six goals and eight assists during the run.
Alex Ovechkin had a goal and two assists while Mike Knuble and Shaone Morrisonn each had a goal and an assist for the Capitals, who have also won seven straight at home and are 19-3-3 as the host this year. Tonight, Washington is playing the middle segment of a three-game homestand that is scheduled to end Sunday against Tampa Bay.
The game was tied at 1-1 heading into the third period, but Washington scored four unanswered goals in the final 20 minutes, including two markers in the first three minutes of play.
"Things just exploded for us there in the third period," said Washington head coach Bruce Boudreau. "Those guys are on a 13-day road trip and we're at home and you have the crowd to energize you when you're at home. It can make the difference sometimes and I think it was a big thing tonight."
Michal Neuvirth made 30 stops in the win, but Jose Theodore could get the start in net tonight as he appears to have made a quick recovery from a hip injury sustained in Tuesday's road game against the Islanders. Braden Holtby was recalled from the club's AHL affiliate to serve as the backup to Neuvirth on Wednesday, but he was sent back to Hershey the following day.
The Panthers come into tonight off back-to-back wins as goaltender Tomas Vokoun continued his stellar play in goal.
Vokoun, who made 16 saves in the 2-1 win over visiting Montreal on Tuesday, had his fifth consecutive start in which he allowed one goal or fewer. Over that span he has two shutouts, helping Florida to a 3-1-1 record. However, he has surrendered seven goals in two starts against Washington this year.
Shawn Matthias scored both Florida goals, including one on a penalty shot, giving him five tallies on the season. Dominic Moore and Michal Repik had assists in the win.
Florida, which is 12-13-3 as the guest this year, will try to end a two-game road skid tonight.
01/29 10:46:25 ET