Twelve points, that's the difference between the Capitals and the second-place team in the Southeast Division, the Florida Panthers. The Capitals have defeated all but one Southeast Division foe, and that foe is, you guessed it, the Panthers.
The last time these two teams met, the Capitals had just been shutout by Steve Mason and the Blue Jackets. Looking to right the wrong, the Capitals hoped to get two points out of the Panthers, only they ended up losing that game 5-3.
The Panthers are also part of an elite group: teams that have beaten the Capitals at home. In fact, they were the first team to do it until the Columbus Blue Jackets shut the Capitals out on Jan. 9.
The Capitals' unflattering show against the Los Angeles Kings has caused a bit of a shakeup in the District. Karl Alzner is back in town, and Steffan Kronwall was claimed on waivers. While Kronwall won't be playing tonight, you can bet a few defensemen on the ice might be feeling the heat. Jobs are going to be won and lost over the next few games, and nobody wants to be the healthy scratch, or worse, traded.
Washington Capitals (33-16-4, first in SE, second in EC, last game 5-4 loss to LA Kings)
vs. Florida Panthers (25-18-8, second in SE, 8th in EC, last game 3-2 win over NYI)
WSH: Karl Alzner
It's pretty easy to pick Alzner are the one to watch. Alzner impressed fans, coaches and players in his nearly two months of NHL play and his absence has been felt. While you shouldn't expect him on the scoresheet, you can look for what the players around him are doing. Remember, Karl Alzner made Milan Jurcina look like a top four defender.
FLA: Jay Bouwmeester
Since we're talking about defense, we might as well highlight one of the Panther's top blueliners. Bouwmeester has been the center of numerous trade talks, some of them including the Capitals, and with good reason. He's a solid defender. He's tied for fifth in goals (12), and his 28 points are a team best for defenders on the Panthers. While the trade rumors made be circling, if the Panthers continue to stay playoff contenders, I suspect Bouwmeester will stay a Panther.
Another guy to watch...
...former Capital Richard Zednik. He recorded his second career hat trick as well as a four-point game against the Maple Leafs on Feb. 3.
A beauty from Zednik
Richard Zednik is up for a goal of the year nomination with this goal...
LET'S GO CAPS!