One look at the NHL standings will tell you that the Capitals’ back-to-back games this week against Tampa Bay and Florida can’t be taken lightly.

Points in these contests will allow Washington to break their tie atop the Southeast Division with the Panthers.

Florida doesn’t play Tuesday night, so regardless of the outcome against the Lightning, the Capitals will remain in first place in the Southeast heading into that meeting in Ft. Lauderdale. That doesn’t make the opportunity to start building some distance between themselves and the Panthers any less significant.

“We’re just hanging on because we have more regulation wins,” Jason Chimera said. “You’ve got to keep pushing; it was a longer break than usual for the All-Star break and we’ve got to come back, we’ve really got to push from the get go. Guys have to realize the seriousness of the situation. It’s do or die the rest of the way.”

Said Karl Alzner: “These are important points, I think this is where you can really make a good push for not only the division but to get up there....You gotta win these games against Florida, cause they don’t seem to want to stop. We both kind of win one, lose one, win two, lose two. We’ve got to win more than two or three in a row.”

With 13 of these final 34 regular season games against Southeast foes – four each against Florida and Tampa Bay including these tilts — each win pushes Washington closer to the top spot in the division and the guaranteed playoff berth that comes with it.

“The goals go hand in hand,” Jeff Halpern said. “We just have so many games inside the division. Win those games and it puts us in a good spot to win the division, which puts us in a good spot to finish in a playoff spot. We know it’s tight. Florida’s had a great year, Winnipeg and Tampa are still pretty close.

“This is a team tonight that although they’re behind us in the standings, you want to keep that distance there,” Halpern said. “Teams go on a little winning streak, you’re right back in it. We have to keep that in mind.”

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