WASHINGTON – The Tampa Bay Lightning's regular-season finale has taken on significant importance.
To secure home-ice advantage for their Eastern Conference First Round series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Montreal Canadiens, the Lightning must defeat the Washington Capitals on Sunday at Verizon Center.
Tampa Bay, which is making its second Stanley Cup Playoff appearance in seven years, has not had home-ice advantage in a series since winning the Stanley Cup in 2004.
"We'd love to have home ice," Lightning defenseman Eric Brewer told reporters. "Clearly it's something that you never want to use, but you'd love to have. The other thing is you just want to play well going into the playoffs."
Forward Ryan Malone's status for the postseason is uncertain after he was arrested and charged with driving under the influence and cocaine possession early Saturday morning.
As for the Capitals, their season comes to an end Sunday after missing the playoffs for the first time since 2007. A win would give the Capitals their longest winning streak of the season at five games, but they take little solace in that knowing that they failed to reach their goals.
"When you lose in a Game 7 usually you can tell yourself you went out swinging," defenseman Karl Alzner said. "You're in the playoffs. You had a chance to win the Cup. When you don't put yourself in [the playoffs]…one's more of a crushing one and one is more of an embarrassing one."
Here are the projected lineups for the Lightning and Capitals: