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Capitals return home to face Lightning

by Jon Lane

LIGHTNING (17-10-2) vs. CAPITALS (16-12-2)


Last 10: Tampa Bay 3-5-2; Washington 5-4-1

Season Series: The Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals play the first of three games this season and for the first time since April 13.

Big Story: Washington's win against the New York Rangers on Sunday gave it a three-point lead over New York for second place in the Metropolitan Division and has it two behind the Lightning in the Eastern Conference. The Capitals' high-octane offense -- their 86 goals are seventh in the League and tied for second in the East -- will be pitted against a Lightning team fifth in the East with a 2.41 goals-against average.

Lightning goalie and probable starter Ben Bishop has allowed more than one goal once in his past five starts and no more than two since Nov. 19.

"We're not in the spot we are in the standings if we don't have the goaltending we've been getting, especially with a team that’s going through lineup changes on a daily basis and has the inability to score right now," coach Jon Cooper told the team website Monday. "I can't stress enough how much that's kept us in the race."

Team Scope:

Lightning: Although the Lightning had 29 shots on goal Saturday in a 2-1 overtime loss to the Winnipeg Jets, Cooper lamented over the lack of opportunities early in the game. Tampa Bay had five shots in the first and didn't reach 10 until 12:08 of the second, an issue for a team that's scored one or no goals in four of the past six games and 13 in its past seven.

"Nine shots through 31 minutes . . . and it's not like we didn't have our legs, we didn't shoot pucks," Cooper said. "So when you only play 130 feet of the ice, and you just want to sit there and play keep-away, not shoot pucks, it' not going to work for you."

Capitals: Philipp Grubauer made 30 saves Sunday for his first NHL victory. In his second NHL start, Grubauer became the first Capitals goaltender to make at least 30 saves in his first League win since Michal Neuvirth on Feb. 14, 2009.

''It's a huge pressure, but he handled it,'' Alex Ovechkin said. ''It's good for him and it's good for us.''

Who's hot: Grabovski scored on a penalty shot Sunday for his ninth of the season and 25th point in 30 games, nine more than he had in 48 games last season, and has points in four of his past five games (1-4-5). Ovechkin leads the League with 22 goals, two more than the Alexander Steen of the St. Louis Blues … Anders Lindback started Saturday for the Lightning and stopped 34 shots. He's given up two goals in each of his past two starts.

Injury report: Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman (lower body) did not travel with the team, but Cooper said he's feeling better. Pierre-Cedric Labrie (upper body) may be cleared to play Tuesday. Mattias Ohlund (left knee surgery), Brian Lee (knee surgery), Tom Pyatt (broken collarbone), Steven Stamkos (right tibia surgery), Ryan Malone (broken ankle) and Keith Aulie (hand surgery) are all on injured reserve. The Capitals are missing Jack Hillen (right tibia surgery), John Erskine (upper body), Michal Neuvirth (lower body) and Brooks Laich (groin).


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