WASHINGTON DC (CBSMiami/SportsDirect) – The Florida Panthers are having one of the best seasons in the team’s history and will look to keep that going against the East’s top team.
The Washington Capitals won’t have captain Alex Ovechkin when they start the post-All Star Game portion of the schedule against the visiting Panthers on Tuesday in a battle of Eastern Conference division leaders.
Ovechkin (28 goals) was suspended one contest by the NHL for skipping the All-Star Game due to an undisclosed injury.
The Capitals, who own the best record in the league (35-8-4), had two recent games postponed because of a snowstorm on the East Coast and will be playing only their second contest in a 14-day span.
The teams are expected to go with their backup goaltenders as Florida’s Al Montoya opposes Philipp Grubauer while All-Stars Roberto Luongo (Panthers) and Braden Holtby (Capitals) sit out.
Florida finished with three straight wins before the break, outscoring its opponents 14-3, after losing four in a row (0-3-1).
All-Star Jaromir Jagr has managed one point in his last six games for the Panthers and is two shy of becoming the sixth player in NHL history with 1,100 assists.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN
ABOUT THE PANTHERS (29-15-5): Jagr, who played in his first All-Star Game since 2004, has recorded 33 points – one behind Jonathan Huberdeau for the team lead.
The duo has combined, for the most part, with center Aleksander Barkov (31 points) to form one of the best lines in hockey while Reilly Smith, who tops the Panthers with 16 tallies, is riding a four-game goal-scoring streak.
Montoya, who has a 7-2-1 record with a 1.92 goals-against average and .929 save percentage, is 1-0-1 (three goals allowed) against Washington this season.
ABOUT THE CAPITALS (35-8-4): Washington lost 4-3 in overtime to Philadelphia before the break, so it has not won a game since defeating Columbus on Jan. 19.
Despite the absence of Ovechkin, the Capitals will have two All-Stars in the lineup in leading scorer Evgeny Kuznetsov (15 goals, 49 points) and Nicklas Backstrom (16, 45), but Marcus Johansson (upper body) is doubtful.
Grubauer (5-3-1, 2.12 GAA, .925 save percentage) won his last start on Jan. 10 against Ottawa and has stopped 55-of-57 shots over his last three appearances.
- The Panthers are 3-for-9 on the power play in their last two games after going 0-for-25 over the previous nine.
- Washington D John Carlson (27 points in 35 games) returned against Philadelphia last Wednesday after missing a month with a lower-body injury.
- Florida LW Jussi Jokinen notched four points during the three-game winning streak before the break.
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