Lightning (31-29-6, 68 Points) at Capitals (32-28-6, 70 Points)
Last 10: Tampa Bay 7-3-0; Washington 4-5-1
NHL-leading goal scorer Steven Stamkos (48 goals) has 10 multi-point games in his past 18 contests.
Tim Wallace enters the matchup with goals in consecutive games after scoring his first NHL goal on Saturday night in Carolina
Marty St. Louis has 7 points (3G, 4A) in the last five games
Ryan Shannon's assist on Tuesday was his second assist in as many games
Tom Pyatt's two assists on Tuesday gave him three points (1G, 2A) over his past three games
Teddy Purcell is currently enjoying a career-high 10 game point streak with six goals and 20 points in that span
Tampa Bay’s second-round sweep of Washington in 2011 was its second sweep in franchise history. The Lightning also got a second-round sweep of the Montreal Canadiens in 2004.
Washington’s Roman Hamrlik represented the Lightning in the 1996 NHL All-Star Game in Boston.
Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin has been held to one goal by Tampa thus far in the 2011-12 season
Thursday’s contest at the Verizon Center marks the fifth of six total meetings on the year between the division rivals. The clubs have split the first four matchups, winning twice each. Each of the first four games in the season set have been decided by just one goal, including two that have gone past regulation.
The Big Story:
Thursday’s matchup won’t nearly be about a head-to-head matchup between two of the league’s superstars as much as it will be about two clubs neck-and-neck in the standings competing for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference postseason race. Washington enters the divisional contest in ninth place, just two points ahead of Tampa Bay, which sits 10th. While a regulation win by the Lightning would certainly tie them with the Capitals for the ninth spot, a regulation loss by division-rival Winnipeg at the hands of Vancouver on Thursday night could also help the Bolts close the gap in the hunt to just two points.
LIGHTNING – Tampa Bay travels to the nation’s capital for a brief one-game stint before returning home on Saturday to take on the division-rival Hurricanes. Tampa Bay had its four-game win streak snapped on Tuesday in a 7-3 defeat to Ottawa, but the Lightning lost more than just the game itself. Starting goaltender Mathieu Garon went down just 3:54 into the opening period and is going to miss 3-4 weeks with a torn groin muscle. The injury didn’t seem to affect the team too much, at least until midway through the third period, when a questionable goaltender interference call on Steven Stamkos shifted the tides in Ottawa’s favor. Stamkos notched his league-best 48th goal of the season to make it 4-3 after Tampa Bay erased a three-goal first-period deficit, but then went to the box, allowing the Senators to capitalize on Milan Michalek’s power-play goal that re-established Ottawa’s two-goal lead. Michalek would go on to score twice more into an empty net during the final two minutes, completing his second career hat trick and sealing the victory which also halted the Lightning’s five-game win streak at home.
CAPITALS – Washington hosts the Lightning at the Verizon Center to conclude a five-game home stand, on which the team has gone 1-2-1. The Capitals were in jeopardy of nearly losing their third straight game in regulation on Tuesday versus Carolina after having been shutout in back-to-back contests over the weekend. With the Hurricanes clinging to a 3-2 lead late in the third, Capitals forward Brooks Laich tied it at 3-3 with 2:52 remaining in regulation to force overtime and grab Washington at least a point in the standings. That’s all it would get, however, as Justin Faulk’s game-winning goal in the extra session lifted Carolina to victory. The Capitals trail the division-leading Panthers by four points and are two behind Winnipeg, which holds the East's eighth and final playoff spot. Following Thursday’s game against the Lightning, Washington hits the road for six of its next seven games, where it's just 7-15-3 in its last 25 outings away from home.
Steven Stamkos upped his league-leading goal total to 48 on Tuesday night and now has goals in four straight games. Teddy Purcell is also riding a career-high 10-game point streak with six goals and 20 points in that span. For Washington, Troy Brouwer and Brooks Laich each had goals in their club’s last game on Tuesday.
CAPITALS – Nicklas Backstrom (concussion) and Tom Poti (groin).
“We’ve been playing good hockey lately, so we’re going to head into Washington with [Tuesday’s] game behind us and try to pick ourselves back up. We know where we’re at and we know what our situation is, but we’re not looking at the standings. We’re going to go to Washington worrying about Washington.” – Brendan Mikkelson, on his team’s outlook heading into Thursday’s divisional matchup against the Capitals