Tampa Bay 3-5-2; Washington 5-4-1
Sun Sports; AM 970 WFLA
This is the first of three meetings between the Tampa Bay Lightning and former Southeast Division foe, the Washington Capitals, and first of two at Verizon Center. The Lightning went 1-2-1 against Washington last year, outscoring the Caps in the third period 8-3.
Tampa Bay hopes to earn their first victory in the District since January 4, 2011, going winless in their past five games (0-2-3) at Verizon Center.
LIGHTNING – Injuries and a lack of scoring have cost the Lightning in December, though goaltenders Ben Bishop and Anders Lindback have put up sterling performances between the pipes. Eric Brewer and Radko Gudas’ return to the lineup Saturday seemed to be perfect timing, after it was announced two other blueliners, Keith Aulie and Victor Hedman, would not play due to injury. Yet they, along with the rest of the team, took nearly half the game to re-gain their bearings. The late effort tied the game at one, but the Bolts would eventually fall in the extra frame.
Now the task does not get any easier for Tampa Bay with four of their next five games coming away from the Tampa Bay Times Forum, including two games against teams that are in second and third place teams in their respective division. If the Lightning can jump out of the gates with an early barrage of shots against the Caps, the best possible outcome may be in store, as the Bolts have a .929 winning percentage (second in the NHL) when they score the game’s opening goal.
CAPITALS –Even with Braden Holtby taking the day off and rookie goaltender Phillipp Grubauer, who made just his second NHL start, in net the Caps were up to the task in a 4-1 win at Madison Square Garden versus the New York Rangers Sunday. Building leads early in two strong starts have led to back-to-back wins for Washington. They have now outscored their opponents 9-3 in their past two games.
With seven points separating the second through seventh-place team in the Metropolitan Division, the second-place Capitals will be looking to gain ground in the standings. After their next two in the Sunshine State, Washington faces four straight division matches, including a home-and-home series against the Philadelphia Flyers.
And while Washington has faced tensions within their organization, such as forward Martin Erat openly requesting a trade, winger Alex Ovechkin is on pace for a second straight MVP season, scoring 25.6 percent of the Caps’ goals alone in 2013-14.
Forward Nate Thompson tallied his first goal in 19 games with two seconds remaining in the second period Saturday. Martin St. Louis and Teddy Purcell both found success against the Capitals last year, combining for 14 points (seven goals, seven assists) in four matchups. St. Louis is also riding a six-game point streak against the Caps.
Lightning – D Keith Aulie (upper body, out), D Victor Hedman (lower body, out), F Pierre-Cedric Labrie (upper body, day-to-day), D Brian Lee (knee, out), F Ryan Malone (lower body, out), F Tom Pyatt (broken collarbone, out), F Steven Stamkos (broken right tibia, out); Capitals – Brooks Laich (strained right groin, day-to-day), Michal Neuvirth (right ankle, day-to-day)
12/4 Recalled Defenseman Matt Taromina from the Syracuse Crunch (AHL)
Twitter Stat Pack:
The #TBLightning went 4-for-13 (30.8%) on the power play against the #Caps in 2012-13.
The #Bolts @BenBishop30 has stopped 157 of 162 shots he’s faced in his past give games for a .969 save percentage.
Despite losing two of their last three games, the #TBLightning have only allowed four goals.
With 13 players on the #TBLightning’s current roster who have played less than 100 career NHL games, eight have also played less than 50.
“We’re not in the spot we are in the standings if we don’t have the goaltending we’ve been getting, especially with a team that has these lineup changes on a daily basis and with our inability to score right now. I can’t stress enough how much they’ve kept us in the race.” – head coach Jon Cooper on Ben Bishop and Anders Lindback
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