Panthers Coach Kevin Dineen has tinkered with his forward lines in recent games, but based on this morning’s skate it appears former Capital Tomas Fleischmann will play alongside Stephen Weiss and Kris Versteeg tonight at Verizon Center. For most of the season, that trio has been one of the league’s most potent combinations.
The Panthers could have clinched the division Tuesday against Winnipeg, but they blew a 3-0 lead and lost, 5-4, in overtime.
“You have an opportunity to get there and it doesn’t work out, there’s going to be an emotional letdown,” Dineen said. “As with anything in life, it’s how you respond to adversity.”
It wasn’t Jose Theodore’s best game of the season – in fact, the five goals against equaled his season high – but all indications point toward the veteran goaltender getting a chance to redeem himself tonight. Dineen wouldn’t tip his hand, but Theodore left the ice before Scott Clemmensen.
If Theodore does get the nod, it will mark his first start at Verizon Center since the Caps chose not to re-sign him following a 2009-10 season during which he posted a 37-7-7 record to go along with a 2.81 goals against average and .911 save percentage.
Neither Theodore nor the Panthers are playing well at the moment. Theodore, who does not speak to reporters on game days, is 0-2-4 in his last six starts and the team is 1-2-5 in its last eight games.
The Panthers are also 0-2 on F Street this season, having been shut out twice, and still could miss the postseason altogether if they fail to record a point in their final two games and both Washington and Buffalo win out.
Despite the obvious pressure the Panthers are feeling, the mood this morning was businesslike and even-keeled – just the way Dineen wants it.
“You don’t need caffeine products to get up for a game like this,” Dineen said. “You go and prepare your team, make sure there are no holes in what you say. But you don’t overload them with information.”
“What’s happened is over the course of the year we’ve found a rhythm with how we do our game days,” the coach added. “When you stay in that rhythm there’s comfort from both the players and the coaches. We don’t tweak things too much.”