ARLINGTON, Va. -- The Tampa Bay Lightning will limp into Verizon Center on Tuesday to face the Washington Capitals resembling the walking wounded.
Missing the likes of Steven Stamkos, Ryan Malone and Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay, which has lost 101 man games due to injury, has fallen from first place in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference to fourth in the division and fifth in the conference since losing Stamkos to a broken right tibia on Nov. 11.
Having been ravaged by injuries, the Lightning have been forced to use a patchwork lineup that features eight players with less than 50 games of NHL experience.
Despite it all, the Capitals, very familiar with the Lightning as former Southeast Division co-tenants, will not take them lightly.
"Usually when you've got young guys playing, they're playing for a lot of things, staying in the lineup, they want to prove something," left wing Jason Chimera said. "It's almost like sometimes those guys play harder. They can't afford to take a night off."
Even without Stamkos, who scored 14 goals in 17 games prior to landing on injured reserve, the Lightning still have ageless wonder Martin St. Louis, who has tormented the Capitals throughout his career with 76 points in 72 games.
"They have another superstar in Marty and a guy who brings it every single night," said Capitals coach Adam Oates, a former Lightning assistant coach. "The team, of course you're going to miss one of your best players [Stamkos] if not the [best]. But the fact that you've got another guy that pulls the ship every night, he won't let other guys relax and they've got a lot of good hockey players on that team."
Here are the projected lineups for the Capitals and Lightning for their game Tuesday.
Marcus Johansson – Nicklas Backstrom – Alex Ovechkin
Eric Fehr – Mikhail Grabovski – Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera – Martin Erat – Joel Ward
Aaron Volpatti – Jay Beagle – Tom Wilson
Karl Alzner – Mike Green
Dmitry Orlov – John Carlson
Nate Schmidt – Steve Oleksy
Scratched: Patrick Wey, Alexander Urbom
Injured: Brooks Laich (lower body), John Erskine (upper body), Jack Hillen (fractured tibial plateau), Michal Neuvirth (lower body)
Martin St. Louis – Tyler Johnson – Ondrej Palat
Nikita Kucherov – Valtteri Filppula – Alex Killorn
Teddy Purcell – Nate Thompson – J.T. Brown
Pierre-Cedric Labrie – Dana Tyrell – B.J. Crombeen
Eric Brewer – Andrej Sustr
Radko Gudas – Matt Carle
Mark Barberio – Sami Salo
Scratched: Richard Panik, Matt Taormina
Injured: Steven Stamkos (broken right tibia), Ryan Malone (fractured ankle), Tom Pyatt (broken collarbone), Keith Aulie (broken hand), Mattias Ohlund (knee), Victor Hedman (lower body), Brian Lee (knee)
Notes: Labrie, who has been dealing with an arm injury, may be ready to return to the lineup for the first time since Nov. 25 despite not being officially cleared to play as of Monday.