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NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Thursday, February 27th (All times Eastern)
Washington Capitals (27-23-9) at Florida Panthers (22-29-7), 7:30 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Olympics didn't end in a positive way for either Alex Ovechkin or Nicklas Backstrom and the duo look to get refocused on Thursday night when the Washington Capitals visit the Florida Panthers.
The spotlight was bright on Ovechkin in Sochi, where he was looking to lead Team Russia to a gold medal in the Winter Games. However, the Russians were held without a medal of any kind in a disappointing effort in front of the home crowd.
Backstrom, meanwhile, was a member of the silver-medal winning Team Sweden, but was unable to play in the gold medal game after testing positive for a banned substance. A Swedish Olympic official said Backstrom's positive test came as the result of an allergy medicine he has routinely taken.
However, the test isn't expected to affect his NHL season as the league said the specific substance in Backstrom's case is not on the league's banned list.
Still, Backstrom was understandably disappointed he was not able to compete against Team Canada for the gold medal, but will now turn his full attention to getting the Capitals in the playoffs.
"We're all behind him. We know that he did the right things. It's a weird thing that happened to him; kind of a glitch in the system and very unfortunate," said Caps head coach Adam Oates.
Ovechkin also will be looking to get back into the swing of the NHL, where he leads the league with 40 goals through 55 games. That is nine more than second-place Phil Kessel of Toronto and it marks the first time Ovechkin has reached the 40-goal mark since netting 50 in 2009-10.
Ovechkin has 30 goals and 61 points in 48 career games versus the Panthers.
Washington went 5-2-1 in its final eight games before the Olympic break and sits three points out of the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. The Caps are expected to have defenseman Mike Green (concussion) and forward Mikhail Grabovski (sprained left ankle) in their first game back from the break.
Braden Holtby could get the start in net and has won all five of his career appearances versus the Panthers while posting a 2.40 goals against average and one shutout.
The Panthers come in 15 points out of a wild card spot and having lost six of their last eight. They also suffered a blow during the hiatus when Aleksander Barkov suffered a knee injury while playing for Finland. The 18-year-old second-overall pick of the most recent draft has eight goals and 24 points in 54 games this season, but is out indefinitely.
Center Drew Shore was recalled from the minors to replace Barkov in the lineup.
The Panthers are likely to turn to Tim Thomas in net tonight and he is 14-5-3 with a 2.46 GAA in his career versus the Capitals.
These former division rivals have split a pair of meetings this season, with each club winning a shootout on home ice.
The Capitals had won eight in a row in this series before a 3-2 loss in Florida on Dec. 13.
02/27 10:36:43 ET