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NHL Preview from The Sports Network

Friday, February 15th (All times eastern)

Washington Capitals (27-25-6) at Florida Panthers (26-27-6), 7:30 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The Washington Capitals will continue their battle for the Southeast Division lead tonight, when they visit the Florida Panthers at BankAtlantic Center.

The Capitals come into tonight with 60 points and are tied with Atlanta for second place in the Southeast. Carolina is in first place with 62 points.

Washington lost out on a crucial point in the Southeast race its last time out, as Atlanta notched a shootout win over the visiting Capitals on Wednesday. Eric Perrin scored the game-deciding goal in the shootout to lift the Thrashers to the 3-2 decision at Philips Arena.

In the first round of the shootout, Perrin skated in on Olaf Kolzig and curled to the backhand before switching to the forehand and lifting the puck over the fallen netminder. After Alexander Semin was stopped by Kari Lehtonen, Vyacheslav Kozlov swooped in from the right wing and snapped the puck past the right pad of Kolzig.

Boyd Gordon had the chance to extend the shootout for Washington, but his offering deflected off the glove of Lehtonen, who was able to stop the bouncing puck from crossing the goal line to secure the win.

Alex Ovechkin registered a goal and an assist for the Capitals, who have lost two of three. Viktor Kozlov also scored and Nicklas Backstrom collected two assists, while Kolzig allowed two goals on 28 shots.

Ovechkin tallied his league-leading 48th goal of the season with 1:21 remaining in regulation to knot the game at two.

Tonight marks the middle portion of a three-game road trip for the Caps, who are 12-12-5 as the visiting club this year. Washington is also just 2-8-0 when playing on Fridays this season.

Florida has dropped two straight and three of four and is playing its second game since the horrific injury to teammate Richard Zednik. The Panthers hosted the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday and were handed a 2-1 setback as Alex Kovalev scored a power-play goal 1:43 into overtime.

After Jassen Cullimore was whistled for a hooking penalty just 33 seconds into the extra session, Montreal went a man-up. Kovalev got the puck in the middle of the right circle, and fired a shot that beat Panthers goaltender Tomas Vokoun for the winning score.

Steve Montador scored the lone goal for Florida, while Vokoun stopped 35 shots, including four in overtime.

The Panthers were on the ice for the first time since Zednik suffered a cut to his neck in Sunday's 5-3 loss to Buffalo and had to be rushed to the hospital. Zednik underwent surgery, and on Tuesday his condition was upgraded from stable to good, and he was moved out of intensive care and into a private room.

Florida is just 11-12-5 as the host this year and has lost nine of its last 11 home tests.

The Panthers won their first three games against Washington this year, but the Capitals have taken the last two encounters. Florida has still won eight of 11 in the series and the Caps have dropped seven of 10 at the BankAtlantic Center.

02/15 10:41:43 ET

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