LIGHTNING (8-4-2) at CAPITALS (11-4-0)
TV: NHL Network-U.S., Sunshine Network, CSN-DC.
Last 10: Tampa Bay 5-3-2; Washington 7-3-0.
Season Series: This is the first of six meetings between the Southeast Division rivals. Washington defeated Tampa Bay four times during the 2009-10 campaign.
Big Story: If the start of 2010-11 is any indication, these teams could be battling it out for the division crown all season long. The Lightning have found their way under new coach Guy Boucher and enter Thursday's action just four points behind the first-place Capitals, who have won five in a row.
"Our 'D' have done great job throughout the course of the season blocking shots and allowing the goalies to see the lane," Lightning goaltender Dan Ellis said after he and his teammates earned a 4-0 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday at the St. Pete Times Forum. "We're really good at getting our sticks on pucks.
Lightning: After being outscored 6-2 in the last two games of their four-game road trip, the Lightning tightened up defensively in their rink and corrected some defensive issues in a convincing win against Toronto. Boucher was particularly impressed with superstar Steven Stamkos, who scored a pair of goals and was also solid in his own end of the ice.
"I think Stammer wanted to change the way he played the last game," Boucher said. "He wasn't very defensively aware last game. That's not like him. What I think is great about him is his way of wanting to be just perfect. When he's not, he's not happy."
Capitals: Washington is on a roll. Bruce Boudreau's club rallied from three one-goal deficits en route to a 5-3 victory against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night. Brooks Laich had two goals and an assist, while Matt Hendricks chipped in with one of each.
"I never thought that we were behind. We were behind, but I thought we played pretty good in the first period," Boudreau said. "We got a bad break on the second goal after killing off a 5-on-3 pretty well. Sometimes in a game you feel like you're always in it. Sometimes a team is beating you 2-1 or 1-0 and you think there's no way we're going to come back.
"But there was a good vibe on the bench tonight, so it was good."
Who's Hot: With two goals against the Leafs, Stamkos increased his League-leading total (13). His 24 points are also the most in the NHL. Meanwhile, Ellis is 3-0-1 with a 0.78 goals-against average in his last four games. … Alex Ovechkin had two more assists for Washington on Tuesday night and leads the Caps with 20 points (8 goals, 12 assists) in 15 games. Laich is already a plus-13, by far the highest rating on the club.
Injury Report: Simon Gagne (neck) is out for Tampa Bay, while Steve Downie (upper body) is questionable. … Tom Poti (lower body) and Semyon Varlamov (groin) are day-to-day for the Capitals.
Stat Pack: Lightning forward Nate Thompson notched his first goal of the season, and first since Feb. 13, 2010 (against the New York Islanders), a span of 35 games. … Washington is 7-0 this season when it scores a power-play goal.
Puck Drop: "You look at our schedule, and we're not home all that much. We need to take advantage when we are. It was a great start that really set the tone for the whole game. It was a big win for us to get that confidence back." -- Lightning center Steven Stamkos after Tuesday's 4-0 win against Toronto