Lightning (0-0-0, 0 Points) vs. Capitals (0-0-0, 0 Points)
TV/Radio: Sun Sports HD; AM 970 WFLA
Season Series: Saturday’s game is the first of four meetings between the two division rivals, with each of the first two contests both being played in Tampa Bay. The Lightning won their final home game of the 2011-12 season against the Capitals, 4-2, with Steven Stamkos notching the game-winning goal. The Lightning won all three games against the Capitals at the Times Forum last season and picked up points in five of six games in total, going 3-1-2.
The Big Story: The Bolts are back in action at the Tampa Bay Times Forum for the first time since April 2, 2012, and since the conclusion of the lockout that wiped out the first three months of the season. Saturday’s game also officially marks the beginning of the Lightning’s 20th Anniversary landmark season. Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier will play in his 999th career NHL game on Saturday, coming one off his milestone 1,000th contest, in which he is expected to appear on Monday afternoon on Long Island. Lastly, Saturday’s game also features the top two goal scorers in the NHL over the past three seasons. Steven Stamkos has scored 156 goals, while Alex Ovechkin has tallied 120 since the beginning of the 2009-10 season.
LIGHTNING – Fresh off a six-day camp, a good portion of which took place at Germain Arena in Estero, the team returned to Tampa Bay on Friday to hold one final practice at the Times Forum. The session was open to the public and also featured free lunch to welcome back fans. The Lightning will play just once at home, that being Saturday against Washington, and then travel to Long Island to take on the Islanders on Monday afternoon. The very next night, on Tuesday, the Bolts will play at Carolina before returning home. Some good news heading into the opener is that all returning players from last season, with the exception of JT Brown, appear to be healthy and are anxious to get the season going. In addition to Keith Aulie and Pierre-Cedric Labrie also cracking the opening night roster out of camp, Lightning forward Cory Conacher is expected to make his NHL debut on Saturday.
CAPITALS – Washington is coming off a successful season in which it came one game shy of reaching the Eastern Conference Finals. The Capitals, albeit with some different personnel, are still considered to be a threat in the Southeast Division, which this season poses four legitimate division-title contenders, including the Bolts. This season, former Lightning assistant Adam Oates takes his knowledge behind the bench as Capitals head coach, while new faces Wojtek Wolski, Mike Ribeiro and Joey Crabb hope to make an impact. Washington kicks off its season Saturday night against the Lightning before returning home to take on a two-game set against Winnipeg and Montreal, respectively.
Who’s Hot: Steven Stamkos is entering the 2012-13 regular season fresh off a 60-goal season that saw him capture the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy as the NHL's leading scorer. Stamkos also finished last season ranked second in the NHL with 97 points and tied for first with 12 game-winning goals. Martin St. Louis has registered 23 goals and 68 points in 68 games against the Capitals in his NHL career. For Washington, Alex Ovechkin finished the regular season with points in two of his final three games, and with eight points in his final eight games overall.
Injury Report: LIGHTNING – Mattias Ohlund (placed on Injured Reserve); CAPITALS – None.
Connections: Washington's Roman Hamrlik was the first draft choice in Lightning franchise history, getting selected first overall in 1992. Hamrlik is the only member of the inaugural 1992-93 Lightning team still playing in the NHL. He accumulated 52 goals and 133 assists over 287 games with the Bolts from 1992-93 to 1997-98, representing the team at the 1996 NHL All-Star Game in Boston. Nate Thompson and Capitals forward Joey Crabb were teammates during the NHL lockout with the Alaska Aces of the ECHL. Former Lightning assistant Adam Oates is now serving as head coach of the Capitals.
Notable Quotable: “There is definitely going to be urgency from the first period of the first game all the way until the last period of the last game. Every game is going to be one of those that just means so much.” – Lightning head coach Guy Boucher, on the importance of his team getting the season off to a fast start
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