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Lightning (23-11-5, 51 Points) at Capitals (23-12-5, 51 Points)
Last 10: Tampa Bay (8-1-1); Washington (5-3-2)
Season Series: Tonight’s game is the third of six meetings between the two Southeast Division rivals. Washington has taken both contests against Tampa Bay this season, earning victories in its home arena on Nov. 11 and again on Nov. 26 by scores of 6-3 and 6-0, respectively.
The Big Story: Both the Lightning and Capitals enter tonight tied for first place atop the Southeast Division. Tampa Bay’s red-hot play with eight wins in its last 10 games, combined with Washington’s December skid, allowed the Lightning to pull ahead of the Capitals in the Conference standings with a game in hand. Tampa Bay will attempt to maintain its lead in the East playoff race, but will face a test to do so, as it has only won four of the last 18 meetings against Washington.
LIGHTNING – Tampa Bay kicks off a four-game road swing tonight in Washington, with tonight’s matchup also acting as the first half of a back-to-back set. The Lightning have points in 10 of their last 11 games and look to extend their point streak on the road to six games with a victory tonight. Cedrick Desjardins, who won each of his first two career starts before being reassigned to Norfolk of the American Hockey League Sunday, helped cap off a strong home stand on Saturday night with a 2-1 overtime victory against the Rangers. The rookie net minder stopped 34 shots and Nate Thompson added the game-winner 19 seconds into overtime to give the Bolts their second straight victory. Following the game, the team acquired goaltender Dwayne Roloson from the Islanders in a move that is expected to bring stability in net as the team continues its quest for the playoffs.
CAPITALS – Washington plays host to its division rivals tonight to begin a brief two-game home stand. The Capitals come in on a three-game winning streak, which included a victory in the annual Winter Classic on Saturday night at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. Mike Knuble had a goal and Eric Fehr scored twice to extend his team’s streak, while handing the Penguins their second consecutive loss. Recently, the team has done little without the help of captain Alex Ovechkin, who has just two goals in his last 11 games.
Who’s Hot: Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier each come in with points in four of their last five games. Ryan Malone also has three assists in his last four games for Tampa Bay. Washington is led by Mike Green, who has a four-game point streak with two goals and two assists in that span, while Eric Fehr has three points in his last two games, including a pair of goals.
Injury Report: LIGHTNING – Randy Jones (upper body, day-to-day) and Mike Smith (minor knee injury, out 1 week, placed on Injured Reserve). CAPITALS – Boyd Gordon (lower body, out 1-2 weeks, placed on Injured Reserve) and Matt Bradley (finger, out 2-4 weeks, placed on Injured Reserve) and Tom Poti (head, placed on Injured Reserve).
Notable Quotable: “I think anytime you are traded you are shocked, surprised. But at the same time, after it sinks in, you are pretty happy that you are going to a team that wanted you and wanted you for a reason. I'm very excited about this situation, that's for sure.” – Dwayne Roloson, expressing his thoughts on joining the Lightning
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