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Lightning (8-4-2, 18 Points) at Capitals (11-4-0, 22 Points)
Season Series: Tonight’s game at the Verizon Center is the first of six meetings this season between the two Southeast Division rivals. The Lightning won two of six last season, earning victories in each team’s home arena.
The Big Story: Tampa Bay has gained points in three of its last five road contests and look to use the momentum to improve its record at the Verizon Center, where the Bolts have won just two of the last 10 matchups. Tampa Bay and Washington each rank among league leaders in goals per game, as Rocket Richard Trophy winner Steven Stamkos and former winner, teammate Vincent Lecavalier, will face off against another one-time recipient of the award in Alex Ovechkin. The Lightning and Capitals also each rank in the top-10 on special teams, with Tampa Bay besting Washington in both power play percentage and penalty killing percentage by a slim margin. Washington, meanwhile, holds one of the best records on home ice at 7-1-0.
LIGHTNING – Tampa Bay plays the first of two on a back-to-back two-game set before returning home Sunday against Minnesota. The Lightning have received excellent play from their goaltenders on the road recently, as Mike Smith and Dan Ellis enter tonight’s contest with a combined record of 7-3-1 in their last 11 starts away from home, with an aggregate 2.13 goals-against average and .927 save percentage. Ellis, however, was just as good at home in the team’s last game, recording a 28-save shutout against Toronto, which was helped along by a pair of goals from Steven Stamkos as well as tallies by Nate Thompson and Dominic Moore. Tampa Bay also set a season-high total of 22 blocked shots in the game.
CAPITALS – Washington has played great at home this season, where it hosts the Lightning tonight for a one-game home stand before hitting the road again on Saturday in Buffalo. Washington has won four in a row at home, with its lost loss at the Verizon Center coming nearly a month ago on Oct. 19. The team is returning home tonight after playing a one-game road swing at Madison Square Garden, where they beat the Rangers 5-3. Brooks Laich scored twice, Mike Knuble had a goal, as did Matt Hendricks and John Erskine. Washington’s win pushed its winning streak to a season-high five straight games. This is the 10th winning streak of five or more games the Capitals have had since Head Coach Bruce Boudreau took over behind the team’s bench less than three years ago.
Who’s Hot: The NHL’s leading scorer, Steven Stamkos, has recorded a goal in nine out of the team’s 14 games this season for a total of 13, while teammate Martin St. Louis is riding a two-game point streak and has nine points in his last eight games. Vincent Lecavalier also has three assists in his last two. Alex Ovechkin leads the way for Washington, with four goals and 12 points in his last seven games. Mike Green also has 10 points in his last six and Alexander Semin has collected eight points in his last five contests.
Quotable: “Going into their barn, and right now they’re on fire, we know we are going there and playing an extremely tough team who is tough to beat. They’re the type of team where one guy can come out and just buzz by everybody. Even if they trail and you think you’ve got them, you better be aware of their firepower.” – Head Coach Guy Boucher, on the challenge of playing the Washington Capitals at home
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