Last 10: Tampa Bay (6-3-1); Washington (6-4-1)
Season Series: Washington makes its second visit to the St. Pete Times Forum this season with a one-game edge on the Bolts, who fell to the Capitals back on Dec. 7. The teams will meet four more times, with three being played at the Verizon Center in the nation’s capital on Jan. 31, Mar. 4 and Mar. 12. The Caps wrap up the season set at the Times Forum as the Lightning play host on Mar. 20.
The Big Story: Tampa Bay carries a league-best mark of just 44 goals allowed at home this season, the least of any NHL team. Tampa Bay also ranked third in the NHL with the least amount of power play goals against at the St. Pete Times Forum with 10. Tampa Bay’s play with the man advantage will look to capitalize on Washington’s penalty kill unit, which has allowed the fourth-highest number of power play goals on the road with 23. The Lightning’s goaltending, however, will also be tested, as the Capitals enter tonight’s contest ranked third in the NHL with 21 power play goals away from home this season.
LIGHTNING – Tampa Bay hosts the Capitals tonight in the first contest of a two-game set at the St. Pete Times Forum. On Thursday, the Bolts will face off against the in-state division rival Panthers before traveling to Sunrise on Saturday to finish up a home-and-home series. Mike Smith has made eight starts in the team’s last nine games, posting a 4-1-1 record in six of those matches in which he went unbeaten in regulation. Smith made 33 stops in a 4-2 win over the Devils this past weekend, while Antero Niittymaki saw action on Saturday at Philadelphia for the first time since Dec. 18. He posts a 5-2-0 record against Washington in his career. Martin St. Louis is riding a 10-game point streak, which is just one shy of his season-high which he opened the first month of the season with. Steve Downie and Steven Stamkos tied-career highs in points on the team’s last road trip and look to continue the trend tonight for the Lightning, who have won five of seven.
CAPITALS – After losing three straight, Washington has bounced back with the same number in the opposite direction. They seek their fourth win in a row tonight at the St. Pete Times Forum in the first of a two-game road swing within the state of Florida. They travel to take on the Panthers tomorrow. Michal Neuvirth has maintained a solid presence between the pipes for the Caps, filling in for the injured Semyon Varlamov while putting up a 5-2-0 record with a 2.15 goals-against average. Washington’s offense has also been rolling, with nine different players currently holding active point streaks coming into tonight. The Capitals have outscored the opposition 18-7 in their last four games.
Who’s Hot: - Martin St. Louis comes in with a ten-game point streak in which he has totaled 14 points over that span. Steve Downie, on a career-high point streak, also has five points in his last four, as does Steven Stamkos.
- Washington’s Tom Poti has tallied seven points in his last five games and Mike Green has totaled five in his last four, while Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin have amassed four points in two games.
Injury Report: LIGHTNING – Todd Fedoruk (lower body, placed on Injured Reserve, out one week) and Matt Smaby (upper body, day-to-day). CAPITALS – None.
Quotable: “I grew up watching Marty [Brodeur] and I guess anytime you can beat a guy like that, it’s special. He’s played for so long and achieved so much. But the win is the most important thing against any team right now. That’s a good hockey team we beat, and we should be really happy.” – Lightning goaltender Mike Smith, who stopped 33 of 35 shots in a 4-2 win over the Devils this past weekend, snapping New Jersey’s six-game home win streak.
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