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Capitals Vs. Panthers: Washington Faces Yet Another 'Playoff' Game In Florida

Lost in all of the scuttlebutt surrounding the Washington Capitals this week is the fact that they do have a game Friday and a big game at that.

The Caps head to Sunrise for the second time in as many weeks to face the Southeast Division-leading Panthers in what head coach Dale Hunter called a "playoff" game.

Washington has not played since Monday, when they lost their third consecutive game in a 5-3 loss to the San Jose Sharks. Since then, there has been plenty of news made off the ice, from head coach Dale Hunter candidly voicing his opinion of Michal Neuvirth's recent play to associate goaltender coach and former Cap Olaf Kolzig commenting on Alex Ovechkin's "rock star" attitude.

Not all news was negative, though. General Manager George McPhee said that the Caps have no interest in trading disgruntled forward Mike Knuble, who is expected to return to the lineup after being scratched for three consecutive games. Also, McPhee said that defenseman Mike Green will join the team on the four-game road trip and "could" play this weekend after having abdominal surgery January 17.

This will be the third meeting between the Caps and Cats this month; the Panthers won the first meeting in Sunrise 4-2 February 1, while the Caps rebounded with a 4-0 win at Verizon Center February 7.

Both teams have played 56 games and a Washington loss would put Florida up six points in the division with 25 games left.