Playoff game in February?

Playoff game in February?
February 7, 2012, 10:55 pm

Capitals coach Dale Hunter described tonights game against the Florida Panthers as a playoff game.

With one point separating the Southeast Division-leading Florida Panthers and the second-place Capitals, his point is well taken. It also has to be a bit disheartening to Capitals fans accustomed to seeing their team with double digit leads in the division this time of year.

Its a little bit of a shock because I think at the beginning of the season we thought we had a really good chance to be at the top (of the conference) again, defenseman Karl Alzner said. It becomes a reality check real quick.

Capitals veteran right wing Mike Knuble agrees, saying that after coasting to four straight division titles, the Caps are skating in unfamiliar territory.

This time of year were usually just cruising and waiting and not really involved as much (in a playoff race), Knuble said. This is the fun part -- 30 games and every night matters. The good thing is we can control it and we dont need help from anybody. But things can get out of your hands if you dont win now.

Tomas Vokoun (21-13-1) will see his second start of the year against the Panthers, while his former team will turn to backup Scott Clemmensen (8-3-5), who has played in 12 of the Cats last 15 games while former Capital Jose Theodore continues to rehab a knee sprain that has sidelined him for 10 of Floridas last 12 games.

Capitals left wing Jason Chimera said he actually thinks his teams current predicament they are in ninth place in the East -- might be a good thing.

Look at Philly (in 2010), Chimera said. They went all the way to Stanley Cup Finals and they won in a shootout on the last day of the season to get in. They were in playoff mode for a month or so. If were not in playoff mode (tonight) we better get in one.