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Lightning can earn home ice by beating Capitals

by Corey Masisak

LIGHTNING (45-27-9) at CAPITALS (38-30-13)


Last 10: Tampa Bay 6-3-1; Washington 5-3-2

Season series: The Washington Capitals have won the first two games this season, and five in a row against the Tampa Bay Lightning dating to Jan. 19, 2013.

Big story: The Lightning come to Verizon Center for their regular-season finale needing a victory of any kind to earn the home-ice edge against the Montreal Canadiens in their first-round Stanley Cup Playoff series. The Capitals' season will end without a trip to the postseason for the first time since 2007.

Team Scope:

Lightning: Tampa Bay has qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second time in the past seven seasons. The Lightning can surpass the 100-point mark for the third time in franchise history. Each of the previous teams won at least two rounds in the playoffs.

There are some questions about who will be available once the postseason begins, and the health of goaltender Ben Bishop (upper body) tops the list. He could be a Vezina Trophy finalist, but the timeline for his return is unclear. Veteran forward Ryan Malone's availability is also in question after he was arrested early Saturday morning in Tampa, Fla., and charged with driving under the influence and cocaine possession.

Capitals: Washington has won four games in a row, but it was too late for a desperation surge and the Capitals will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2007. Last season the Capitals won 15 of their final 19 games to not only make the postseason but win the final incarnation of the Southeast Division.

The Capitals won four straight coming in and out of the Olympic break, and after beating the Boston Bruins on March 1 were one point shy of a playoff berth. They lost 11 of 16 games before their season-closing uptick.

"We didn't get it done. We were close. We didn't get it done," coach Adam Oates said Friday after a 4-0 win against Chicago. "We want to achieve our goals and when you fail, we're first. Our job is to be the constant and set the tone for them when they walk in and be positive. We're also upset."

Who's hot: Tampa Bay rookie Ondrej Palat had 16 points in March and hasn't stopped in April with eight more in six games. … The Capitals third line of Joel Ward, Eric Fehr and Jason Chimera has combined for 40 points since March 1. Ward is tied with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom for the Capitals lead in that span with 16 points.

Injury report: Palat (undisclosed) and defenseman Victor Hedman (lower body) left the game Friday early and are questionable for the finale, though they made the trip to Washington, as did forward Valtteri Filppula (lower body), who also missed the game Friday, and defenseman Sami Salo (upper body), who missed the past two games. Forward Teddy Purcell (illness), who sat out Friday, stayed home. Bishop (upper body) is out. … The Capitals are not expected to have defenseman Mike Green (upper body) or forwards Brooks Laich (groin) and Marcus Johansson (upper body).

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