Caps take on shorthanded Panthers

Caps take on shorthanded Panthers
February 1, 2012, 11:10 pm
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SUNRISE, Fla. -- Joel Wrecker Rechlicz is expected to be back in the lineup tonight when the Capitals visit the Panthers in the battle for the Southeast Division lead.

The Caps lead the Panthers by one point in the division standings.

On Tuesday night in Tampa Rechlicz took two shifts in the first period and watched the rest of his Capitals debut from the bench. Tonight, the 6-foot-4, 220-pound behemoth could square up against Florida heavyweight Krystofer Barch, a 6-foot-1, 237-pound right wing who leads the Panthers with 80 penalty minutes.

The Panthers will be missing a big chunk of their offensive firepower. Leading scorer Kris Versteeg (43 points in 47 games) is expected to sit out with the flu, while right wing Scottie Upshall remains out with an abdominal injury that required sports hernia surgery.

The Panthers also will be without former Caps goalie Jose Theodore, who is sidelined by a knee injury, which means Scott Clemmensen (6-2-5) will get the start against Michal Neuvirth (6-7-3).

Here are some other newsy notes for tonights 8 p.m. puck drop at BankAtlantic Center:

--Since their last meeting on Dec. 5, when the Panthers held on for a 5-4 win in Sunrise, the Caps have erased a seven-point deficit by going 13-7-3 (29 points) while Florida has gone 7-7-7 (21 points). The Capitals power play has improved from 14.7 percent on Dec. 6 to 18.1 percent, while their penalty kill has jumped from 79.8 percent to 80.9 percent in the same span.

--The Capitals have gone 17-7-1 against the Panthers over the last 25 games, outscoring them 88-64 in that span. Washington is 8-4-1 in its last 13 road games against Florida.