Busy night of NHL action on Wednesday with thirteen games on the board before the league takes a break on Thursday for US Thanksgiving with only one game scheduled. In this preview we’ll take a look at Eastern Conference action between the Metro Conference leader and league overall co-leader Washington Capitals and the Atlantic Division second place Florida Panthers. Both teams have lost two straight and for both teams the continued strong play of the Boston Bruins is an issue. While the Caps have slumped in the past week the Bruins have regained their solid form and have pulled back into a tie atop the league standings. Florida is looking up at Boston in the Atlantic Division and they need to keep the Bruins in sight if they’re to make a run at the division title. After the Bruins blowout win in Montreal on Tuesday night they’ve opened up an 8 point divisional lead over the Panthers.
The New York Islanders’ recently ended 17 game point streak got a ton of attention from the media but even at that pace they were unable to reel in the Capitals atop the Metropolitan Division. That’s because Washington had been playing just as well. The Capitals opened this season with a 3-2 overtime win against St. Louis and through November 13 had lost only twice in regulation all season compiling a record of 14-2-4 after 20 games. They’ve cooled off a bit since then with 3 losses in their last five games including two in regulation. The Caps play 9 of their next 13 games on the road which in theory should be a concern but in reality Washington has played better away from home this year with a record of 10-2-1.
Florida had started the month of November very strong winning 7 of 10 going 7-2-1 but have since lost two straight dropping a 4-2 verdict at Carolina last Saturday and losing to Buffalo 5-2 at home on Sunday. Both teams should be well rested with Carolina having three days off between games and Washington enjoying a four day break. After this contest, Florida will return home for a ridiculously extended home stand that begins Saturday against Nashville and will see the Panthers playing their next 9 consecutive games in South Florida. They’ll definitely make up for it, however, since after the 9 game run at home concludes they’ll enter a scheduling stretch that will have them playing 19 of their next 29 games on the road.
Sergei Bobrovsky is expected to get the start for Florida and he’s still trying to find his form after an erratic start to the season. Bobrovsky has shown a tendency to start slow throughout his career though this is magnified given his status as one of the off season’s marquee free agent signings. On the other end of the rink he’ll face Braden Holtby who has been confirmed as the Washington starter. Holtby is having an excellent season and is 11-2-4 on the year. The Capitals do have some injury issues, most significantly center Nicklas Backstrom who will miss this game with an upper body injury.
Given the Capitals’ current form it’s tough to rationalize laying a chalk price even at home. For whatever reason, Florida has given Washington fits in recent season. The Panthers have won 5 of the last 7 meetings overall including 3 straight in Washington. Florida took 3 of 4 from Washington last season including both games played at the Capital One Arena. All four games last year went ‘Over’ the total as have 5 of the last 7 overall. Panthers have been on a massive ‘Over’ run of late exceeding the total in 8 of their last 10 games.