Caps (23-12-6, 52 points) vs. Panthers (18-19-2, 38 points)

What » Game #42

Where » Verizon Center

When » 7 p.m.


Radio » WFED-1500 AM

A bobble following the Winter Classic – a 1-0 shutout loss to Tampa Bay – leaves the Caps looking for a Southeast Division win. Things are looking up after last month’s eight-game losing streak. But another loss to the Panthers tonight would be a pretty significant buzz kill. Florida won here on Dec. 9, 3-0, and killed all eight Washington power plays.

The Panthers shouldn’t be taken lightly on the basis of that game alone. But they also sit 11th in the Eastern Conference and are just six points out of ninth with a game in hand on both teams in front of them. Florida put together an 8-3-2 stretch that included the shutout at Verizon Center. But they have lost consecutive games – both in the division – and had to play last night in Raleigh. 

We’ll see if Bruce Boudreau’s lineup changes, including Alex Ovechkin at right wing, can spark the offense. Based on yesterday’s practice Alex Semin would be on the left wing. Mathieu Perreault (broken nose) said yesterday he didn’t expect to play. A chat with the coaching staff changed that so he will be in the lineup tonight. We’ll see exactly where during warm-ups.

Semyon Varlamov gets his fifth start in a row in goal. I’d say stopping 127 of 133 shots over four games is a pretty good way to secure the No. 1 spot. Bruce Boudreau continues to insist that the 22-year-old Russian doesn’t have any kind of chokehold as the starter. Michal Neuvirth will get another chance at some point. He better make the most of it when it comes.

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