Panthers take Southeast lead, Caps out of top eight again

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The Florida Panthers and Washington Capitals keep playing musical chairs with the Southeast Division lead – and the spot in the East’s top eight that comes with it. The Panthers ended up in that chair when the music stopped tonight.

Both teams are tied at 61 points but the Panthers have played one less game (53 to Washington’s 54) so they’re currently the technical leaders. That’s not to say that the Caps lack some advantages, though, as they’ve won 28 games to the Panthers’ 25. If Florida loses its next game in regulation, Washington will back into the No. 1 spot again.

The Panthers topped the Los Angeles Kings 3-1 tonight, as they only allowed one Drew Doughty goal and avenged the spirit of David Booth by handing Mike Richards a -3 rating.

Meanwhile the Winnipeg Jets improved their shaky playoff hopes by edging the Capitals 3-2 via a shootout. The Jets are now behind the ninth-place Caps at 10th place with 58 points although they’ve played 56 games.

The immediate future for the Caps and Jets

Washington must weather a challenging storm with five of its next six games on the road, starting off with a tough road game against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Sunday and a home contest against the always-dangerous San Jose Sharks. after that they’ll begin a four-game road trip with another big clash versus the Panthers on Friday, Feb. 17.

Florida’s next two games are on the road against the Devils and Islanders before they’ll play five of six at home. That includes the aforementioned home battle with Washington.

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Looking things over, it sounds like the Panthers will have every chance to maintain their lead over the short term. Florida’s overall schedule is very tough – especially in terms of travel – so the big picture feud could bee a see-saw match.

Who do you expect to come out on top in the end, though?