After having a day yesterday to celebrate the holiday season, the Lightning got back to work this morning at the St. Pete Times Forum in preparation for tonight’s game against the Capitals. Oddly enough it will be the first meeting between the teams this season. It is pretty hard to believe the teams haven’t met yet almost one-third the way through the season. They will still meet five more times after tonight.
It’s not going to be easy for the Bolts tonight against a Capitals team that has won five in a row and is 6-2-2 in their previous 10 games. On top of that Alex Ovechkin returns tonight from a two-game suspension. You know he’ll be ready to go. Speaking of ready to go, the Lightning will need to be tonight as well. Last season Washington outscored the Bolts 15-3 in the first period so a good start will be key tonight in snapping the Lightning’s 11-game losing streak to the Captials.
Head Coach Rick Tocchet said the Lightning need to treat tonight, and every other game against the Caps, as a rivalry game. They need to up their intensity level, but not so much that they get away from the system. According to Tocchet the Bolts will need to back check hard and play a high-energy game while limiting their chances. “If you give them chances, they will bury them,” Tocchet said.
Mike Smith will get his second consecutive start in net. He will look to build on his 30-save shutout on Saturday night against the Islanders. He has posted a 2-0-0 record with a .982 save percentage with a 0.50 goals-against average in his previous two starts at the St. Pete Times Forum. Matt Smaby and Todd Fedoruk will sit out tonight as healthy scratches.
Steven Stamkos is in the midst of his longest goal drought this season, currently sitting at four games. Rick Tocchet said this morning that he has been playing with a passer’s mentality and he needs to get back to the “gunslinger” attitude he had at the beginning of the season.
If you’re coming to the game tonight, don’t forget to bring an unwrapped toy as the Lightning Wives will be collecting for Toys For Tots on the plaza. If you bring a toy you will get a voucher good for tickets to an upcoming game.