Washington travels to south on Saturday night for a preseason contest against Southeast Division rival Tampa Bay. The Caps and Lightning hook up at 7:30, and you can listen to a live webcast of the game right here on www.washingtoncaps.com.
Saturday’s game is the third in a row on the road for Washington. The Capitals are still looking for their first preseason win. Washington took a 4-3 overtime loss in its exhibition opener at Carolina last Sunday and fell 5-4 at Ottawa on Thursday.
In both games, the Capitals were unable to protect two-goal leads. In both games, third period penalty trouble led to Washington’s eventual downfall.
“You can’t take nine, 10 penalties and lose games on 5-on-3s,” states Caps coach Glen Hanlon. “That’s just not acceptable. [Goaltender] Olie [Kolzig] wasn’t the reason we lost the hockey game, the reason we lost the hockey game is we took bad penalties. We were up 3-1 and we started taking penalties. We were in total control of that game. Total control.
“We have a team that can play 5-on-5 and we should – if everything works out – have a really good power play. For us to be killing penalties is absolutely senseless. [Tomas] Fleischmann doesn’t kill penalties. [Thursday] night he was one of our better players and he plays three minutes in the second period. That’s a hard thing to do.”
Battling for a spot on the wing of one of the team’s top two lines, Fleischmann had a strong game, recording a goal and an assist.
“He gave us an NHL game last night, and that’s what we’re looking for,” says Hanlon.
Fleischmann is one of several young hopefuls who will be in the lineup for Washington on Saturday night in Tampa. With two preseason games down and five to go, some impressions – good and bad – have been made. But there is a long way to go, and there are several jobs still up for grabs.
Despite the losses, the improved Capitals have played well enough to win both games.
“We saw it in Carolina with our young kids and we saw it [Thursday] night [in Ottawa],” says Hanlon. “Standing behind the bench, there’s a feeling that this is a much improved hockey team. Now it’s [a matter of] eliminating the penalties.
“We played great. I have no complaints whatsoever with [Thursday] night’s hockey game. We lost that game because of penalties and because we were in a controlled situation twice – once 4-on-4 and once 5-on-5. We don’t want them to set up behind the net but they did. We practiced that and we practiced that. Some things are read and react, and that’s a hard read. But this, we know where everybody is supposed to be and our players weren’t there. So it ended up costing us a goal, and you cannot have a goal scored on a controlled forecheck, it’s just not acceptable.”
The Lightning got off to a sluggish start last season, but put on a midseason surge that helped it to land a playoff berth. The Bolts were eliminated in the first round, bowing to the New Jersey Devils. Goaltending, depth and penalty killing were issues for Tampa Bay last season, and those issues were addressed to varying degrees in the off-season.
Between the pipes, the Lightning will give Karri Ramo a look in addition to last season’s tandem of Johan Holmqvist and Marc Denis. Forwards Jan Hlavac, Michel Ouellet and Chris Gratton were brought in via trade or free agency, and veteran blueliner Brad Lukowich, a member of the 2004 Stanley Cup champion Lightning team, returns after signing as a free agent over the summer.
Most of the Lightning’s offensive output comes from four players: forwards Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis and Brad Richards and defenseman Dan Boyle. All but Boyle are signed to multi-year contracts while Boyle is set to break the bank as an unrestricted free agent next summer.
Tampa Bay lost two players to injury during its Wednesday preseason game against the Dallas Stars. Center Gratton left the game with an abrasion on his left cornea. Later, winger Ouellet left the game with a left hamstring injury. Neither player is expected to be sidelined for long.
Two more members of the Lightning have missed practice time with injuries. Left wing Hlavac has a bruised foot and left wing Andre Roy has a bruised tailbone.
Notes: Caps defenseman Steve Eminger has been nursing a minor ailment in the early days of camp. After today's practice, he said he passed muster physically and is now ready to go in game conditions … Brian Sutherby left the ice briefly after his second period fight with ex-Cap Lawrence Nycholat in Thursday’s game against Ottawa. Turns out Nycholat inadvertently got a finger in Sutherby’s eye and took out a contact lens. Sutherby got a new lens and returned shortly thereafter.