For the players, the trip is a great reminder of where they've come from and why they play the game, and it comes at a good time for such remembrances - right in the middle of the dog days of February (check out Comcast's feature from last year's trip for more on the trip itself).
But a two-stop trip to Florida is wrought with peril even without added distractions. As I noted back in July, the Caps played both Florida teams on the road back-to-back twice last season and went 1-3 in those four games. In 2006-07, they were 0-2 in those situations and in 2005-06 they were 0-1-1. In fact, all-time, the Caps are 6-10-2-2 when facing the Panthers and Lightning on the road on consecutive nights.
An inherently tough trip to begin with (the Caps are 9-12-1-1 in the Sunshine State since the lockout), the Caps will enter Sunday night's game against the Cats with a 4-5-1 record in the second of back-to-backs this season, and given that the second of back-to-back road games is statistically tougher to win than any other type of road game... well, you can see where I'm going with this - a four-point weekend would be a heck of an achievement.
That said, it's certainly doable, even with Michal Neuvirth (who didn't exactly set the AHL ablaze) likely to make his NHL debut in one of the two games, and a pair of wins this weekend would be another nail in the Southeast Division coffin. Let's just hope that with all the distractions surrounding them this weekend - fathers and fishing, sun and South Beach with Sergei - they can focus for the 120 minutes that really matter... to the rest of us, at least.
Elsewhere 'Round the Rinks:
Allan Muir picks Mike Green for Team Canada (I wonder if Pierre LeBrun and E.J. Hradek want a mulligan on that one).... Barack Obama: GMGM's righthand man (see slide #9; h/t Caps Message Board).... A year ago today, Tomas Fleischmann got a two-year contract extension. Money quote: "Flash's cap hit next year will be just over 1/10th of Tomas Vanek's. I'll take the over on him scoring 1/10th as many goals and points as the Sabres' stud. Low-risk. Medium-reward. Good deal." As of now, Flash has 16 goals and 28 points while Vanek has 32/52.... Peter Bondra will be at the Baltimore Auto Show this evening, but he presumably won't be wearing a Caps jersey with the logo airbrushed out.... Mirtle's a-Twitterin' (and don't forget, we are too).... This has nothing to do with hockey, but it's a hell of a haircut.