Caps Visit Cats for Saturday Southeast Skirmish
Jan. 13 vs. Florida Panthers at BankAtlantic Center
Time: 7:30 pm
TV: CW (WDCW 50)
Radio: WTNT 570 AMWashington Capitals (19-18-7)Florida Panthers (16-21-9)
Two months to the day after their last visit to South Florida, the Washington Capitals return to BankAtlantic Center for the second of their four road games against the Florida Panthers this season. The Caps came away with a 4-1 win over the Cats in that Nov. 13 contest, and they also took a 5-2 decision from the Panthers in an Oct. 18 game at Verizon Center.
Saturday?s game in Sunrise is the second of a four-game road trip. The Caps will be looking to snap a four-game road losing streak and lift their road record above .500 once again; it is currently at 8-8-4. The Capitals opened the trip with a 5-4 loss to the Lightning in Tampa Bay on Thursday. Washington briefly held a lead midway through that contest but was not able to hold on.
Alexander Semin led Washington?s attack against the Bolts, scoring twice to lift his season total to 24. He cracked the league?s top 10 with those goals and is now tied for seventh in the NHL with the Rangers? Brendan Shanahan. Semin has tallied a dozen power play goals, tied for fourth in the league in that department.
Caps coach Glen Hanlon credits the overall improvement in Semin?s game for enabling him to play key minutes and a high number of minutes. The increased ice time is a factor in Semin?s sophomore success.
?You can?t score that many goals without playing 17 to 18 minutes; it?s really difficult,? says Hanlon. ?And you can?t play that many minutes unless you are responsible in all areas of the ice. We?ve said that with everybody, and that?s the first thing. He has learned how to play 4-on-4, which helps get him into the game. All of his minutes have gone up from the start of the year, and that has helped him.?
Semin averaged 15:53 in 11 October games, a modest figure for a guy who opened the season by scoring a goal in six of his first seven games. His ice time went up to 16:52 in November, even though he only scored twice in 10 games during that month. Semin skated 19:07 a night in December and has averaged 18:42 per game thus far in January.
He is capable of scoring from virtually anywhere in the offensive zone, and has displayed a remarkable arsenal of weapons that includes a potent wrist rocket and an underrated backhander. Semin leads the team in power play goals, and many of those have come from the point via a hard slapshot.
Alex Ovechkin was voted into the NHL All-Star Game by the fans, but Semin?s recent surge has shown that he is also a worthy and deserving candidate for All-Star consideration. With 43 points, he is bubbling just under the NHL?s top 30 in scoring. Semin?s impressive array of skill deserves to be on display later this month when the league?s All-Stars convene in Dallas, but he is likely a longshot at best. The league will announce the rest of the rosters for both conferences on Saturday afternoon.
Washington?s power play is 16th in the NHL with a 17.4% success rate. The Caps have not gone consecutive games without a power play goal in more than two months (Nov. 9-11) and have done so only once this season. Washington has netted at least one power play goal in 32 of 44 games in 2006-07. The Caps are 6-for-26 (23.1%) with the extra man in their last five games.
The Capitals? power play unit is 20th in the NHL with a kill rate of 81%.
Florida endured a 4-11-4 patch in its schedule from Nov. 8-Dec. 14, but has gone 6-3-3 in a dozen games since. Florida recently returned from a trip out west; it was in Vancouver as recently as last Sunday.
Saturday night?s game will be the third in four nights for the Panthers. Most recently, the Cats suffered a horrifying 6-4 loss to the Hurricanes in Carolina. The Panthers took a 3-0 lead into the third period of that game, only to watch it evaporate when they surrendered five goals on eight shots in a span of just 8:22.
The loss dropped the Panthers? record against Southeast Division opponents to 2-11-1 this season. The Cats are 0-9-1 in their last 10 visits to Raleigh.
Florida has had its share of injuries this season, and recently suffered another one when defenseman Branislav Mezei was felled by a shoulder separation in Wednesday?s win over Pittsburgh. Mezei is expected to miss about two months worth of action.
Although the Panthers are pulling up the rear in the Southeast Division and they are 14th in the 15-team Eastern Conference standings, the Cats are only five points out of the eighth and final playoff berth in the East.
Saturday night?s game is the 999th in the Panthers? franchise history.
Florida?s power play ranks seventh in the league with a 19% success rate. The Cats are just 3-for-35 (8.6%) with the extra man in their last nine games. The Panthers? penalty killing corps ranks 11th in the league with a kill rate of 83.5%. Florida has killed off 24 of 27 (88.9%) shorthanded situations in its last six games.
Notes: Saturday marks the one-year anniversary of Alex Ovechkin?s first NHL hat trick. It came in a 3-2 overtime win over the Ducks in Anaheim ? Florida is 5-14 in one-goal games. The Panthers are 5-15-6 in games when their opponent scores first; the Caps are 5-15-4 when their opponent scores first ? Florida is 0-9 in overtime games this season, and is 35-73-142 all-time in the extra session ? The Panthers are 1-7-3 in Saturday games this season.