Pregame primer: Caps set sights on playoffs

Pregame primer: Caps set sights on playoffs
February 27, 2014, 3:45 pm
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Green, Caps getting healthy

Washington Capitals center Marcus Johansson (90) and center Brooks Laich (21) celebrate with right wing Troy Brouwer (20) after he scored the third goal of the night during the third period at Verizon Center. Washington Capitals defeated the New Jersey Devils 3-0.

(Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports)

News and notes as the Capitals [27-23-9, 63 points] visit the Florida Panthers [22-29-7, 51 points] tonight at BB&TCenter [7 p.m. Caps Central, CSN]:

Rusty blades: The Caps have not played a game since a 3-0 win over the Devils on Feb. 8. The Panthers haven’t played since Feb. 7, a 5-1 loss to the Hurricanes. So what kind of game should we expect? “Tough to say,” Caps defenseman Karl Alzner said. “I think it’s going to be a game with intensity, guys flying around. When you’ve had a break for a while you tend to motor more and Florida typically does that anyway. I think it’ll be guys skating hard, some pretty big hits, but maybe not a ton of skill. We need to find that [skill] pretty quickly because that’s the type of team we are.”

Before the break: The Caps went into the break having won three of four while allowing eight goals. The Panthers went into the break losing five of six while allowing 25 goals.

Head to head: The two teams have split a pair of 3-2 decisions this season, with the Caps winning Nov. 2 at home and the Panthers winning Dec. 13 in Sunrise. Tonight’s starters, Braden Holby and Tim Thomas, did not play in those games.

Cats out of the bag: LW Scottie Upshall leads the Panthers with 27 points [10 goals, 17 assists], followed by RW Brad Boyes [15-11-26], D Brian Campbell [5-20-25] and D Tom Gilbert [3-22-25].

Trending: The Caps are 16-0-2 when leading after two periods. The Cats are 12-0-1. The Caps’ minus-44 goal differential is third worst in the NHL, ahead of only Buffalo [minus-60] and Edmonton [minus-46]. The Caps are a minus-4. The Caps rank 4th in the NHL on the power play [21.7 percent], the Panthers rank 30th [8.9 percent]. The Caps are 17th on  the kill [81.3] and the Panthers are 30th [77.2].

Milestone Watch: Joel Ward is one assist away from 100 in the NHL. Dmitry Orlov will be playing in his 99th NHL game. Nicklas Backstrom is three assists away from passing Peter Bondra [353] for seventh on the Caps’ all-time list. Jason Chimera needs three points to hit 300 in the NHL. Troy Brouwer is four assists away from 100 and four points away from 200 in the NHL.

Hot or cold: Alex Ovechkin had six goals and six assists in his nine games before the Olympics, but scored just one goal in five Olympic games for Team Russia. Nicklas Backstrom has 30 points in his last 30 NHL games.

Holt-beast: In his last five games, Caps goalie Braden Holtby is 4-1-0 with two shutouts, a 2.19 GAA and a .920 save percentage.

Road warriors: Thirteen of the Caps’ final 23 games are on the road, including four of the next five games.

Iron man: John Carlson has led the Capitals in ice time in each of his last six games, averaging 28:12 in those games. He ranks 15th in the NHL in average ice time at 24:47.

Power shortage: The Caps went 0-for-14 on the power play in their three games before the Olympic break.

Quotable: “We all should be ready. We all know what situation we’re in; we’re not in the playoffs. We have to be ready.” – Nick Backstrom