My, how things can change. Last season, the Florida Panthers and Washington Capitals engaged in a spirited battle for the Southeast Division title, which Florida won. But right now in this season, both of them are not doing well at all. Washington is in the basement of the entire Eastern Conference and Florida, in 12th place, is also outside the playoff structure right now. Florida’s 4-5-1 record, though, looks practically sparkling next to Washington’s 2-7-1.
Tonight, these two struggling teams will meet in the nation’s capital and both will try to find some measure of luck or attempt to start a turnaround.
That being said, the Panthers have been doing better in their most recent games. They pulled out a 3-2 shootout win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Feb. 7, the same night the Caps lost 5-2 to the other Pennsylvania-based team, the Pittsburgh Penguins. Earlier in the week, the Panthers did lose 3-2 in overtime to the Winnipeg Jets, but before that, they defeated the Buffalo Sabres 4-3. Do you see the pattern here? All three of those most recent games were decided by just one goal and that’s actually an improvement for the team that gave up 23 goals in one five-game losing slump last month.
In this final game of a four-game roadie for Florida, they have the chance to put the hurt on Washington even more and start a winning streak anew. Former Capital Tomas Fleischmann, who now leads the Panthers with nine points and has scored six of those in the past four games, could look to extend his point streak. The team also benefits from having formerly injured guys like Kris Versteeg, Erik Gudbranson and Stephen Weiss back in the lineup.
After denying both Flyers shooters to help his team get that shutout win, Jose Theodore may be in net again tonight. He’s played eight of Florida’s games and has an even 4-4 record. When this roadie is closed out, the Panthers will be back home to face the Capitals again on Feb. 12.