Last 10: Tampa Bay (2-7-1); Washington (6-1-3)
Season Series: The Southeast Division rivals play for the final time tonight, which marks the sixth meeting of the season between the two clubs. The Capitals have taken three of the first five from the Bolts, picking up wins on Jan. 31 and Mar. 4 at the Verizon Center as well as a victory in Tampa Bay on Dec. 7. The Lightning won on Jan. 12 and Mar. 12, earning points at both the Verizon Center and the St. Pete Times Forum.
The Big Story: Washington comes in as the league’s only team to eclipse the 100-point mark as they stand atop the league with 104 points. Tampa Bay, just six points out of the final playoff spot with 12 games remaining, hopes to inch closer with a win tonight against the Capitals, which would conclude the season series even at three games apiece. NHL points leader Alex Ovechkin makes his return to action tonight in his first game back following a two-game suspension stemming from a hit on Chicago’s Brian Campbell.
LIGHTNING – With just 12 games left on the schedule, the Bolts are confident that their playoff goal is still very attainable. Sitting just six points out, the Lightning conclude their four-game home stand tonight before traveling to Sunrise for the second half of a back-to-back matchup with the Panthers tomorrow. Tampa Bay fell in its most recent contest, a 6-2 loss to the Sabres on Thursday. Vincent Lecavalier scored for the sixth time in his last eight games, Steve Downie added a goal, and Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis combined for three assists after being held off the score sheet in their previous three games. The defeat was just the sixth in regulation in the team’s last 19 games at the St. Pete Times Forum. Center Zenon Konopka is expected to return to the lineup tonight as well for the Bolts, after missing five games with back spasms.
CAPITALS – Washington will wrap up it’s four-game road trip tonight in Tampa where it dropped its last contest to Tampa Bay, 7-4 back on Jan. 12. The Capitals won the first two of three away from home, with the only loss during the stretch coming at the hands of Carolina in overtime on Thursday. Washington gave up a 2-1 lead in the third period and sent the contest into the extra session on Eric Fehr’s game-tying goal in the final seconds, but Ray Whitney netted the game-winner in similar fashion with just 58 seconds remaining.
Who’s Hot: Steven Stamkos recorded two assists in his last game to up his point total to 35 over the last 23 games and captain Vincent Lecavalier has recorded six goals in his last eight. Martin St. Louis has a total of 11 points, including nine assists, in his last nine contests and Steve Downie has 15 points in his last 16.
- Washington’s Nicklas Backstrom has seven points in his last three games and Brooks Laich also has seven, but in his last five. Joe Corvo has tallied a pair of goals and assists in his last three and Eric Fehr has three goals in as many games. Brendan Morrison also has accumulated four points in half the number of games for the Capitals.
Injury Report: LIGHTNING – David Hale (lower body, placed on Injured Reserve), Ryan Malone (upper body, day-to-day) and Mattias Ohlund (lower body, day-to-day). CAPITALS – Milan Jurcina (out 2-4 weeks) and Boyd Gordon (day-to-day).
Quotable: “It’s hard, but there are still 12 games and 24 points to be grabbed and I’m not giving up. I don’t think anybody is giving up. No one is going to feel sorry for us and we’ve got to fight until the end, and I believe we will.” – Lightning forward Martin St. Louis commenting on the team’s mood down the final stretch of the season
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