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Posted at 09:44 PM ET, 04/05/2012

Capitals earn playoff berth with win over Panthers; Sabres out after loss to Flyers (updated)

(Jonathan Newton - WASHINGTON POST)

The Capitals had two chances left to secure their fifth consecutive postseason berth, but it turns out they only needed one.

Thursday night’s 4-2 victory over the Panthers — coupled with the Sabres’ 2-1 loss to the Flyers — ensures the Capitals a trip to the playoffs despite a rocky (to say the least) 2011-12 season. Now, the question is who they’ll face in the first round.

Washington can still take the Southeast Division crown from Florida, along with the third seed, if the Panthers fail to get a point Saturday at home against Carolina and the Capitals beat the Rangers in New York.

With a win Saturday, the Capitals could end up the third, seventh or eighth seed. A loss would ensure the No. 8 spot and a first-round matchup with the No. 1 Rangers.

The other issue the Capitals now face: goaltending. Michal Neuvirth left the game after suffering an apparent left leg injury in the second period, possibly leaving 22-year-old Braden Holtby as the lone healthy netminder.

Update, 10 p.m.: Coach Dale Hunter said Neuvirth is listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury and the team will know more tomorrow after he is evaluated. With veteran Tomas Vokoun still battling a strained groin muscle, a Dany Sabourin call-up from Hershey could happen in the near future.

More to come on all fronts, so stay tuned.

NHL conference standings

By  |  09:44 PM ET, 04/05/2012

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