CAPITALS (47-14-10) at LIGHTNING (28-30-12)
Last 10 --
Washington 6-1-3; Tampa Bay 2-7-1
Season series --
This is the final meeting of the season between the two Southeast Division rivals. The Capitals have won three and the Lightning two of the first five matchups. They've already played twice since the Olympic break with the Capitals winning 5-4 on March 4 and the Lightning winning 3-2 eight days later.
Big story -- Alex Ovechkin
is finished serving his two-game suspension for his hit on Chicago defenseman Brian Campbell this past Sunday. The Capitals were 1-0-1 without him, winning at Florida and losing in overtime at Carolina. The Lightning are still holding out hope that they are in the playoff race, but it's not looking good right now.
Eric Fehr scored the game-tying goal in Carolina with 10 seconds left in regulation, but Ray Whitney beat goalie Semyon Varlamov with a rocket of a shot 4:02 into overtime to give the Hurricanes the two points. It's OK for the Caps, though, because they've pretty much got the top seed in the Eastern Conference locked up already unless something downright ridiculous happens (insert all your jokes here).
It should be interesting to watch Ovechkin. He normally plays like he got shot out of a cannon anyway, but you'd expect even more fire. Washington played at Tampa Bay the last time Ovechkin returned from a two-game suspension and No. 8 had two goals in a 3-0 win.
The bottom fell out on the slumping Lightning on Thursday night. Buffalo came into the St. Pete Times Forum and smoked the Bolts by a 6-2 margin. Tampa Bay has only two wins over its last 12 games.
Technically the Lightning are still in the playoff race, but that's only really because neither Boston nor the New York Rangers have been good enough to take command of the eighth seed. Atlanta is creeping up now and has a chance, but the Lightning are losing ground nightly. It doesn't get any easier either. After Saturday's game, the Lightning go on the road for five of their next six games.
Who's hot --
Fehr has had a great week with a goal in each of the Capitals' first three games -- at Chicago, at Florida and at Carolina. He now has a career-high 20 goals and 35 points this season. Nicklas Backstrom
has seven points in the first three games of the Caps' current four-game road trip.
Injury report --
The Capitals are without Boyd Gordon (back) and Milan Jurcina (hernia). … The Lightning are missing Ryan Malone
(knee surgery), Mattias Ohlund
(ankle sprain) and Zenon Konopka (back spasms).
Stat pack --
As the standings sit right now, the most points any Eastern Conference team not called the Capitals can get to is 112, and that's if the Devils go 12-0 down the stretch. Washington already has 104 points and has 11 games remaining.
Puck drop --
"(Ovechkin) had said about a week ago, and this is proof that he's a team guy, 'If it comes down to it in the last couple games don't be afraid to rest me and don't be afraid to rest some of these other guys. We've got to be ready for the playoffs,'" Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau told the Washington Post. "I told him, 'I think you're having your rest this week so I don't think you'll be sitting for the last couple of games for the season.' He chuckled and said, 'Yeah, that's true.' Knowing Alex he's going to come out more determined than ever."