The Washington Times - February 17, 2012, 11:42AM

SUNRISE, Fla. | When the Washington Capitals filtered onto the ice Friday morning at BankAtlantic Center, two forwards were noticeably absent: Alex Ovechkin and Jeff Halpern.

A team spokesman said in an text message reply that it was an optional morning skate. Ovechkin and Halpern both took part in practice Wednesday and Thursday.

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“It was optional,” coach Dale Hunter said. “We had two good practices this week, so today I made it optional for the guys because of that.”

Every other player was on the ice, including Mike Green. The defenseman who is working his way back from sports hernia surgery took a lot of extra work after practice. It looks like he’s out of the lineup at the Florida Panthers, though Hunter alluded to the possibility of Green playing just on the power play and dressing seven defensemen.

Mike Knuble did line rushes in Ovechkin’s place, but he came off the ice early and should be in the lineup. The only thing that could change that is if the Caps do indeed dress seven on the blue line.

Keith Aucoin and John Erskine also took extra work and are expected to be healthy scratches. Tomas Vokoun confirmed he’ll start in goal. Jose Theodore makes his first start against his former team on Friday.

The Caps did not do conventional line rushes, however, so it was difficult to surmise the combinations for Friday night’s game.