Capitals vs. Panthers Preview
Florida (AP) - In the midst of a hot streak, Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau tinkered with his lines in hopes of getting his struggling forwards back on track.
After a positive response from Alex Ovechkin, the Capitals may have found the necessary adjustment to reclaim their usual spot atop the Southeast Division.
Washington looks for its seventh win in nine games Tuesday night when it hits the road to face the Florida Panthers in the back end of a home-and-home series.
According to NHL odds and oddsmakers from online sports book Sportsbook.com have made the Capitals –134 money line favorites for Tuesday's game against the Panthers. Current NHL Public Betting Information shows that 67% of more than 102 bets for this game have been placed on the Capitals -134.
The Capitals (24-12-6), who have won three straight division titles, are one point behind division-leading Tampa Bay after beating the Panthers 3-2 on Saturday. Boudreau shuffled his lines to separate Ovechkin and center Nicklas Backstrom, who had both been mired in slumps.
Ovechkin shifted from left wing on Backstrom's line to right wing with rookie center Marcus Johansson and Brooks Laich. The move seemed to ignite Ovechkin, who scored his 15th goal to give Washington a two-goal lead late in the third period.
It was Ovechkin's third goal in his last 13 games.
``My numbers are not that good or where they're supposed to be,'' Ovechkin said. ``But it's the middle of the season, and there are 40 games left. We'll see what's going to happen at the end of the year.''
While Ovechkin may have benefited from the line changes, Backstrom's goalless drought reached 16 games. Alexander Semin, who leads the team with 18 goals, hasn't scored in 14 straight.
While the offense has still been able to produce three or more goals in six of its last eight, Washington's 6-0-2 stretch may be attributed to its defense. The Capitals have killed 27 straight short-handed situations and 33 of the last 34.
``We're playing a lot stronger defensively, and everybody is starting to buy in,'' said winger Eric Fehr, who has four points in his last three. ``If we keep teams to one or two goals a game, we're going to win a lot.''
Meanwhile, the last-place Panthers (18-20-2) have lost three straight and five of seven. Their last three losses have all been against division rivals, dropping them 17 points behind the Lightning.
Florida has held a lead in four of its last five defeats.
``That's as good as we can play under these circumstances. Our effort was there, our execution was there,'' coach Peter DeBoer said. ``Right now, we're a team that if we make a mistake or two, we lose. Our margin of error is pretty small.''
The Panthers own the league's worst power play at 8.8 percent, which doesn't bode well against Washington's third-ranked penalty kill. Florida has converted 2 of 32 with the man advantage over the last 10 games.
Scott Clemmensen made 24 saves Saturday, but it's likely Tomas Vokoun will be in goal Tuesday. Vokoun shut out the Capitals on Dec. 9 in Florida's 3-0 victory. However, he's 2-7-1 with a 3.14 goals-against average in his last 10 starts against Washington.The Capitals have won five of the last six meetings in Florida and six of the last seven overall.
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