Aiming for a fourth straight victory, the Capitals could still be in good shape without the two-time reigning MVP when they host the Florida Panthers on Thursday night.
Ovechkin earned his first NHL suspension after his knee-to-knee hit on Carolina’s Tim Gleason(notes) in Washington’s 3-2 win over the Hurricanes on Monday. Ejected for the second time in three games for a dangerous hit, Ovechkin was fined $98,844.16 and will miss this contest and Saturday’s game at Philadelphia.
While the Capitals’ star has come under scrutiny for being too physical and said he regretted the hit on Gleason, he said he won’t change the way he plays.
Ovechkin, who missed six games earlier this season with an upper-body injury, suffered a sore knee from the incident and is considered day-to-day.
“It’s not a bad injury,” said Ovechkin, who has a team-leading 18 goals with 12 assists. “I thought it was going to be worse, but thank God I can walk, I can skate. Of course, it’s a little bit sore, but it’s not that serious.”
Still, the Capitals (16-5-6) know they must have their star in the lineup to remain atop the Eastern Conference. They’re currently tied for the top spot
“Alex knows that he is needed on the ice,” team owner Ted Leonsis said. “I believe Alex is so smart and so intuitive that he will measure and modify - in his own way - his game to become even more valuable to our team and franchise as he matures.”
Even without Ovechkin - suffering from an upper-body strain at the time - Washington outscored the Panthers (11-12-4) 11-5 en route to a home-and-home sweep Nov. 6-7.
Mike Knuble(notes) had two goals with an assist as the Capitals beat Florida 7-4 in the second of those games. Brendan Morrison(notes) has two goals and an assist against the Panthers this season, while Nicklas Backstrom(notes) has a pair of assists.
Backstrom has six goals this season, two of them coming in Monday’s win at Carolina. He has five assists in his last three games against Florida.
Jose Theodore(notes) made 35 saves against the Hurricanes in his first start in more than two weeks. Theodore is 6-3-4 with a 3.15 goals-against average this season, but Semyon Varlamov(notes) could be back in net looking for a third straight win.
The former first-round draft pick is 10-1-2 with a 2.38 GAA in 2009-10. He has never faced Florida.
“It was nice to score,” said Weiss, who increased his goal total to a team-leading 11. “You have to be happy about that but it was more important for us to get the two points.”
Weiss has four goals and three assists in his last four games overall, and a goal with seven assists in his last six games against Washington.
Scott Clemmensen(notes) could make his second straight start in place of the injured Tomas Vokoun(notes) after making 29 saves Wednesday. Vokoun is recovering from taking a stick in the head from Florida defenseman Keith Ballard’s(notes) stick during a bizarre on-ice accident Monday night.
Clemmensen is 4-3-0 this season, and 2-4-0 with a 3.77 GAA lifetime against the Capitals.