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NHL Preview from The Sports Network

Friday, March 30th (All times eastern)

Washington Capitals (26-38-13) at Florida Panthers (33-30-14), 7:30 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The Florida Panthers would like to improve their slim playoff hopes by posting a third straight victory tonight, when they welcome the struggling Washington Capitals to BankAtlantic Center.

The Panthers have 80 points on the year and are six behind Tampa Bay and Montreal for the final two postseason slots in the Eastern Conference.

Florida earned its second consecutive victory on Wednesday, as they slipped by Atlanta, 3-2. Craig Anderson made 33 saves in his first start for the Panthers, then came up with some big stops in the shootout to lift Florida to the home triumph.

Jozef Stumpel had a goal and an assist in regulation and also lit the lamp in the shootout for Florida, which was coming off Tuesday's 5-2 win in Tampa.

Anderson, who played parts of four seasons with Chicago prior to this year, was between the pipes to give Ed Belfour a much-deserved rest. The 41-year-old Belfour had started the last 27 games for Florida to set a franchise record.

This evening's game is the middle portion of a three-game homestand for the Panthers, who are a solid 22-12-5 as the host this year.

Meanwhile, the Capitals continued their downward spiral on Tuesday, when visiting Pittsburgh handed them a 4-3 setback at the Verizon Center. Ryan Whitney scored two goals to lead the Penguins past Washington and allow Pittsburgh to clinch its first playoff berth since 2001.

Alexander Semin and Boyd Gordon scored for the Capitals, while Olaf Kolzig allowed four goals on 29 shots.

The Capitals are ahead of only Philadelphia in the East standings and have dropped four straight, 13 of 15 and 18 of their last 21 contests.

Washington has a dreadful 10-22-6 mark as the visiting team this year and has been defeated in seven straight and 14 of its last 15 road tests. The Caps will wrap up a brief two-game swing Saturday in Tampa.

Florida has taken four of the six meetings with the Capitals this year and 12 of the last 15 overall encounters between the teams. Washington has also been defeated in two straight and five of its last seven trips to Florida.

03/30 10:57:21 ET

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