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Season Series: This is the first of six meetings between the two Southeast Division rivals. Last season Washington took four of six games from the Lightning, including two in its home arena. The two clubs will face off five more times following tonight’s game, with an additional pair of games set for Jan. 13 and Mar. 8 in the nation’s capital, as well as three matchups at the St. Pete Times Forum on Jan. 31, Feb. 18 and Apr. 2.
The Big Story: Tampa Bay and Washington are meeting for the first time since the Bolts swept the Capitals out of the playoffs in four straight games last spring. Monday’s game also features a head to head showdown between two of the league’s top goal scorers over the last two regular seasons. Since 2009-10, Steven Stamkos leads all NHL players with 96 goals, while Alex Ovechkin has the third-most with 82. Neither player, however, has lit the lamp thus far in 2011-12.
LIGHTNING – Tampa Bay continues on its season-long five-game, 10-day road trip, with its third stop on the tour coming at the Verizon Center against the reigning Southeast Division champion Capitals. After getting the regular season off to a good start with a 5-1 win over Carolina on Friday evening, the Lightning suffered their first setback of the season the following night, on Saturday, in a 4-1 defeat to the defending Stanley Cup champion Bruins. Martin St. Louis scored for the second straight night and Mathieu Garon made 38 saves in his Lightning debut. After neither team could put the game’s first goal on the board in the opening period, St. Louis drew the score even at one goal apiece just over three minutes into the second frame. Boston, however, then went on to score three unanswered goals and was backstopped by a 25-save performance from Tim Thomas to earn its first win of the season and hand Tampa Bay its first loss.
CAPITALS – Washington plays host to the Lightning in the final contest of a two-game home stand. Following their bout with the Bolts, the Capitals will play once in Pittsburgh before returning to the Verizon Center for an additional pair of games in front of its home crowd. Much like Tampa Bay, Washington started off its season in a way very similar to the Lightning with an opening-night victory over Carolina. It wasn’t easy though, as Washington surrendered two one-goal third-period leads before Capitals defenseman Mike Green won the game in overtime just four minutes after Carolina’s Jussi Jokinen forced the extra period.
Who’s Hot: Tampa Bay’s Martin St. Louis has goals in two straight, while captain Vincent Lecavalier and wing Ryan Malone each come in with points in consecutive games. Washington’s Nicklas Backstrom comes in as the Capitals’ leading scorer after recording two assists in Saturday’s win over Carolina.
Injury Report: LIGHTNING – Mattias Ohlund (knee, placed on Injured Reserve). CAPITALS – Tom Poti (groin, placed on Injured Reserve), John Erskine (shoulder, placed on Injured Reserve), Dennis Wideman (undisclosed injury, day-to-day) and Matt Hendricks (groin, day-to-day).
Notable Quotable: “We are not going to necessarily keep the same guys three or four games in a row. We want to get guys in and you don’t want to be that guy that is taken out, so it will create some internal competition. All the top teams in the league have that, so players better get used to it. That’s how we are going to get better, because there is so much competition and guys are going to want to keep their spots, so they are going to want to give a little bit more.” – Lightning head coach Guy Boucher, on rotating different forwards in the lineup for each game
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