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CAPITALS (40-31-8) at LIGHTNING (36-35-7)
TV: NBCSN (HD), TSN2, RDSI (HD), CSN-MA (HD)
Last 10: Washington 5-3-2; Tampa Bay 5-5-0.
Season Series: The Capitals have won three of their five meetings against the Lightning this season, including their last matchup, a 3-2 overtime victory at Verizon Center on March 8.
Big Story: After a tumultuous season, a playoff berth is in site for Washington, which controls its own destiny. The Caps can inch closer to the postseason with a win Monday night, but the Lightning want to win their home finale -- and would like to see NHL goal-scoring leader Steven Stamkos get to 60.
Capitals: After an early-season dip that cost coach Bruce Boudreau his job and a late-season one that nearly cost the team its season, Washington is improbably in control of its own destiny. This looked even more unlikely after a devastating home loss to Buffalo on Tuesday night that was as embarrassing -- the Caps lost 5-1 -- as it was damaging. But with a little help from the schedule and consecutive shootout wins in its last two games, Washington has a two-point edge on the Sabres heading into the season's final week.
In fact, the East's final postseason berth isn't the best the Caps can do. Theoretically, Washington could still catch seventh-place Ottawa, which clinched a postseason berth Sunday afternoon, or even catch Southeast Division-leading Florida, which lost to Detroit in a shootout Sunday. Should the Caps beat Tampa Bay and get a few favorable breaks, they could enter the postseason looking more like the team that has competed for the conference's top seed in recent seasons, and less like the one that struggled through most of 2011-12.
Lightning: For the Lightning, a disappointing 2011-12 season, which was filled with so much promise after last spring's run to the Eastern Conference Finals, will end Saturday night in Winnipeg. But the Lightning have been playing well -- they've won four of six, including Saturday's 3-2 overtime win against the Jets.
But perhaps the biggest storyline in Tampa Bay is a run at history being undertaken by Stamkos. Having already established himself as one of the top snipers in the League, and having established a career high with 56 goals, Stamkos can reach another milestone by becoming just the 19th player ever -- and only the second since 1996 -- to reach the 60-goal plateau. Stamkos needs four in his last four games, but with six in his last five contests, it's certainly possible.
Who's Hot: Stamkos isn't the only member of the Lightning who has been on a roll. Ryan Malone has been just as hot lately, scoring five goals in his last two games. ... Washington captain Alex Ovechkin has been putting on a show of his own lately, tallying 10 points in his last eight games.
Injury Report: Tampa Bay is without several players, including Ryan Shannon (shoulder surgery), who is out for the rest of the season, Adam Hall (upper-body injury), who is out indefinitely, and starting goaltender Mathieu Garon (lower-body injury), who has been out since March 7. Washington goaltender Tomas Vokoun (lower body) is expected to miss Monday's game having not played since leaving late in the first period against Boston on March 29.
Stat Pack: Stamkos' 56 goals are a career high, but the talented pivot still has a ways to go to best his career highs. His 92 points are still three points back of his personal best of 95 in 2009-10 -- and his 36 assists are 10 fewer than his career high of 46, which he established last season.
Puck Drop : With Vokoun out -- possibly for the rest of the season -- Michal Neuvirth has the opportunity to become the go-to guy in goal. Neuvirth made 39 saves through 65 minutes in Saturday's 3-2 shootout win against Montreal and figures to get the call as long as he proves he can do the job.
"It was a heck of a game by him," coach Dale Hunter said. "I don't know what the scoring chances were but there were some good ones. Then at the power play at the end there were a lot of screens. He had to be sharp. A young man like that is stepping up when we really need him."
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