Lightning (32-15-5, 69 Points) vs. Capitals (27-15-10, 64 Points)
Last 10: Tampa Bay (7-3-0); Washington (3-3-4)
Season Series: This is the fifth of six meetings tonight between the two Southeast Division rivals. Each team has split a pair of victories through four games played this season, but the Lightning have won the last two, both of which were backed by shutouts from Dwayne Roloson. Washington captured the first two meetings back on Nov. 11 and Nov. 26, but haven’t won in Tampa Bay since last season.
The Big Story: Tampa Bay is riding a six-game win streak coming into tonight, the longest since it won eight in a row from Feb. 23 to Mar. 6, 2004 on its way to capturing the Stanley Cup. Already with a five point lead over Washington in the division standings, the Lightning seek to gain its largest lead at the top of the Southeast with an additional win over the Capitals, who have not won in Tampa Bay in nearly a year.
LIGHTNING – Tampa Bay is rolling on its NHL record-tying 12-game home stand, as the Lightning have opened the stint with three straight victories. Since being acquired on Jan. 1, Dwayne Roloson has recorded four shutouts in 11 games, including back-to-back blankings coming into tonight. Tampa Bay has also outscored its opponents 13-1 on the home stand to this point and has killed off 22 consecutive penalties at home, raising the NHL’s best home penalty kill to 89.7 percent. The Lightning are looking to continue its hot streak at home, where it has won 11 of the past 13 games and whose 17-4-2 record at home has helped them claim the NHL’s fourth spot out of 30 teams in the league rankings. That’s not bad for a team that was 25th in the league at this same point in the season exactly one year ago.
CAPITALS – Washington travels to Tampa Bay for a one-game road trip before returning home to play the next three straight at the Verizon Center. The Capitals have been inconsistent since enduring an eight-game losing streak from Dec. 4-18, winning more than two consecutive games only once since the conclusion of the stretch while posting two three-game losing streaks. The Capitals come into tonight with one of those carrying over, as Washington has lost three straight games, the most recent in a 3-2 shootout against Montreal. Mike Knuble and Mathieu Perreault got Washington out to an early 2-0 lead in the first period, but it was surrendered as Montreal countered with a pair of goals in the second and rode the momentum all the way to the end for the victory.
Who’s Hot: Tampa Bay’s Teddy Purcell has three goals and seven points in his last three games and Simon Gagne has six goals and eight points in his last nine contests. Steven Stamkos also has points in seven of his last eight games. Washington’s Mike Green and Matt Hendricks each have two points in their last four games and Mathieu Perreault has two points in his last outing for the Capitals.
Injury Report: LIGHTNING – Ryan Malone (lower body, day-to-day) CAPITALS – Tom Poti (day-to-day), Alex Semin (day-to-day) and Eric Fehr (out 3-4 weeks).
Notable Quotable: “He’s our backbone back there. He’s such a veteran and so composed. It’s a nice feeling that when we do break down, he’s going to be there.” – Teddy Purcell, speaking about goaltender Dwayne Roloson, who has won each of his last five consecutive starts.
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