Preview: Panthers @ Capitals, 2/2/16

Game #50
Florida Panthers (29-15-5 / 63 PTS) @ Washington Capitals (35-8-4 / 74 PTS) 
Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016 – 7:30PM EST
Verizon Center – Washington, DC

Between the Lines

With the 5-day All Star Break now over, the Panthers will play the Capitals in their first game back on Tuesday in Washington. The Panthers last played on January 26th when they defeated the Leafs 5-1 for their 3rd straight win after beating the Blackhawks and Lightning in back-to-back games. Aleksander Barkov, Vincent Trocheck, Jussi Jokinen, Reilly Smith, and Alex Petrovic combined for the 5 goals while Roberto Luongo made 22 saves on 23 shots. Aaron Ekblad, Jaromir Jagr, and Luongo participated in the 2016 NHL All-Star Game festivities on Saturday and Sunday, and the team finally reconvened at the Ice Den in Coral Springs on Monday for an afternoon practice before heading to Washington.

“We’ve got 33 games left and they’re gonna be crucial for our club to keep going, keep doing the things we’ve been doing,” said Luongo after practice on Monday. “We gotta be strong in the last stretch & make sure we keep building off what we did the last couple months.”

Gerard Gallant confirmed on Monday that Willie Mitchell would not be traveling with the team to Washington and Al Montoya will be the starting goaltender. Reilly Smith enters Tuesday’s game on a 4-game goal streak which ties his career-high.

“The puck has been going in the back of the net,” said Smith of his hot streak. “Every now and then you get a little bit of puck luck, and that’s what’s happening right now.”

The Capitals will also play in their first game following the All-Star break, and they’ll do so without Alex Ovechkin who is suspended for 1 game as a result of dropping out of the All-Star Game. Washington has played just 1 game since January 19th after having 2 games postponed due to the snowstorm in the northeastern United States. They last played the Flyers on January 27th and lost 4-3 after a goal by Jakub Voracek in overtime. Jay Beagle, Marcus Johansson, and Brooks Orpik are all out with injury and the Capitals have called up forward Zach Sill from Hershey of the AHL. Philipp Grubauer is expected to start in goal in place of Brayden Holtby.

Tuesday’s game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Network. The Panthers have won 15 straight games with Aaron Ekblad in the lineup and have outscored their opponents in the last 3 games 14-3. The two teams last met on December 10th when Jagr, Pirri Ekblad, and Shaw scored 4 goals in a dominating effort by the Panthers.

Projected Line Combinations

11 Huberdeau – 16 Barkov – 68 Jagr L1 65 Burakovsky – 19 Backstrom – 77 Oshie
36 Jokinen – 21 Trocheck – 18 Smith L2 25 Chimera – 92 Kuznetsov – 14 Williams
42 Howden– 27 Bjugstad – 48 Shaw L3 21 Laich – 10 Richards – 43 Wilson
53 Knight – 17 MacKenzie – 22 Thornton L4 49 Galiev – 23 Sill – 46 Latta
51 Campbell – 44 Gudbranson D1 88 Schmidt – 74 Carlson
Kulikov – 5 Ekblad D2 27 Alzner – 2 Niskanen
Kampfer – Petrovic D3 9 Orlov – 4 Chorney
35 Montoya – 1 Luongo G 31 Grubauer – 70 Holtby
Pirri, Bolland X  Ovechkin
Mitchell INJ Beagle, Orpik, Johansson

Top 5 Scorers

Florida Panthers

Player Goals Assists Points
1. Jonathan Huberdeau 8 26 34
2. Jaromir Jagr 15 18 33
3. Aleksander Barkov 13 18 31
4. Jussi Jokinen 9 21 30
5. Reilly Smith 16 12 28

Washington Capitals

Player Goals Assists Points
1. Evgeny Kuznetsov 15 34 49
2. Nicklas Backstrom 16 29 45
3. Alexander Ovechkin 28 14 42
4. Justin Williams 16 17 33
5. Marcus Johansson 13 17 30

Expected Starting Goaltenders

Florida Panthers

Name Record Save % GAA
Al Montoya 7-2-1 .929 1.92

Washington Capitals

Name Record Save % GAA
Philipp Grubauer 5-3-1 .925 2.12

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