Tough road test up next for Caps

Tough road test up next for Caps
February 11, 2013, 11:15 am
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Holtby, Caps rebound confidence

The Capitals remain the only team in the Eastern Conference without a road win this season (0-4-1), but that could change by week’s end. Washington hits the road for three games over six days as the Caps visit the Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Rangers.

Including this past Saturday’s win against Florida, the Capitals are in the middle of playing three straight games within the Southeast Division.

“Having Florida and Tampa right around each other here, that can help get us into a little bit of a better spot,” defenseman Karl Alzner said on Saturday. 

“Right now, you have to think first things first and that’s to get yourself into a good position and get yourself into the playoffs, but obviously you want to beat your division teams as much as you can and try to send whatever little message that you may be able to.”

Below is a look at this week’s three matchups. All numbers are through Sunday.

TUESDAY, FEB.12 @ FLORIDA PANTHERS (4-6-1; 4TH PLACE SOUTHEAST DIVISION)

The Capitals and Panthers will meet for the second time in four days as Washington looks to build off Saturday’s 5-0 win at Verizon Center.

Braden Holtby turned aside all 27 shots for his first shutout of the season as he improved to 2-0-0 lifetime against Florida with a 1.27 goals-against-average and .951 save percentage. 

Among the Panthers who could not beat Holtby on Saturday was former Capitals forward Tomas Fleischmann. The 28-year-old Fleischmann has three goals and a team-high nine points in 11 games this season for the Panthers.  

Kevin Dineen’s Panthers will be playing their first home game since Jan. 31. Florida is 2-2-0 at the BB&T Center so far this season and 3-1-1 in its last five games overall. 

THURSDAY, FEB. 14 @ TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING (6-5-0; 1ST PLACE SOUTHEAST DIVISION)

The Capitals return to the Tampa Bay Times Forum for the first time since a 6-3 opening night loss against the Lightning on Jan. 19.

While the Lightning have scored just six goals in their last four games (all losses), they remain the NHL’s highest scoring team this season with a 3.91 goals-per-game average. The Capitals meanwhile begin the week ranked 27th defensively, having allowed 3.42 goals-per-game.

Much of Tampa Bay’s offensive prowess comes from its power play which still leads the Eastern Conference at a 28.3 percent efficiency rate despite entering the week in an 0-for-10 drought. 

In their only meeting this season, Tampa Bay’s power play went 3-for-7 against the Capitals with Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos and Teddy Purcell recording two power play points each. 

Stamkos is fourth in league scoring with seven goals and 17 points in 11 games. Rookie Cory Conacher leads all first-year players with five goals and 12 points in 11 games.

SUNDAY, FEB. 17 @ NEW YORK RANGERS (6-5-0; 3RD PLACE ATLANTIC DIVISION)

For the first time since Game 7 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Semifinals, the Capitals will face the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Sunday evening. 

New York’s No.1 line for much of the season – Brad Richards centering Rick Nash and Marian Gaborik – has been among the NHL’s best. Gaborik has a team-high six goals in 11 games, and all three players are tied for the team lead with nine points each.

Former Capitals captain Jeff Halpern is still seeking his first point of the year, but the Potomac, MD native has skated in all 11 games this season and 19-year-old rookie J.T. Miller has impressed in limited action with two goals in his last three games.