The Washington Capitals (27-21-4, 58 points) host the Florida Panthers (24-16-11, 59 points) in a match up with first place in the Southeast Division on the line. With only thirty games left (15 at home, 15 on the road) every point counts and the Caps are currently three points out of eighth place and with a win tonight will vault all the way into third place in the Eastern Conference standings.
“I felt good on the ice,” Laich said following the morning skate. “Turn and pivot and everything felt pretty good.”
Laich has only missed four career NHL games due to injury.
“He looked good out there,” Capitals Head Coach Dale Hunter said on Laich. “He skated well, we’ll just wait to see how he feels tonight.”
Hunter said Jay Beagle, who took the extra skate today, is ready to go if Laich can’t.
John Erskine is likely to be a healthy scratch tonight for the Caps.
The Caps forward lines this morning looked like: Ovechkin-Johansson-Brouwer, Chimera-Perreault-Semin, Hendricks-Halpern-Ward, Knuble-Laich-Aucoin-Beagle.
Mike Green, who didn’t skate the previous three days, skated today in full pads as he is on track to make his return in two-to-four weeks following abdominal surgery.
The Caps are 9-3-0 against the Panthers in their last 12 home games and are 1-2 against the Panthers this season as they won the first game at home, but lost the last two on the road. With only 15 home games left, the Caps are coming down to the final stretch and with playing the Southeast Division leading Panthers tonight, it’s a four point swing.
“If you want to call a regular season [game] a playoff game,” Hunter said. “Tonight’s the night.”
Former Panthers goalie, Tomas Vokoun (21-13-1, 2.54 GAA, .917 Save pct.), will be in net tonight for the Caps. Vokoun has only played the Panthers once this year, October 18th, and stopped all twenty shots he faced in a Caps 3-0 shutout over the Panthers.
The Panthers come in 4-3-3 in their last ten games and come off a 6-3 road loss Saturday in Tampa Bay. Former Caps Tomas Fleischmann (17 goals, 21 assists), Matt Bradley (2 goals, 5 assists) and Jose Theodore (14-9-5, 2.50 GAA, .916 Save pct.) all play for the Panthers.
Listen here to what Dale Hunter, Brooks Laich, Karl Alzner & Tomas Vokoun had to say following the morning skate today.
Dale Hunter Morning Skate Audio
Brooks Laich Morning Skate Audio
Karl Alzner Morning Skate Audio
Tomas Vokoun Morning Skate Audio