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Oates debuts as Capitals coach against Lightning

by Corey Masisak /

CAPITALS (0-0-0) at LIGHTNING (0-0-0)


Season series: These teams split the season series in 2011-12, though the Lightning earned an extra point (3-1-2 vs. 3-2-1). Five of the contests were decided by one goal, and three needed extra time.

Big story: It is the NHL head coaching debut for Adam Oates, who found out he was going to be in the Hockey Hall of Fame and was named the next coach of the Washington Capitals on the same day.

Team Scope:

Capitals: Washington returns much of the same cast that upset the defending champion Boston Bruins and pushed the New York Rangers to seven games in the second round of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Alexander Semin is gone, and Mike Ribeiro will be expected to lead the secondary scoring.

Much of the focus will be on Alex Ovechkin, and how he responds to Oates. Ovechkin's ice time fluctuations became an ongoing saga when Dale Hunter was Washington's interim coach at the end of last season. With Semin gone, the Capitals will need more of the "old" Ovechkin -- at least in the goal-scoring department.

The team's other stars, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green, are healthy and will also be looking for bounce-back seasons. A return to form by Green in particular could change the ceiling for the Capitals, who have slipped from the short list of Cup favorites.

Lightning: Year one with Steve Yzerman and Guy Boucher in charge in Tampa, Fla., was a blockbuster hit, but the sequel failed to live up to expectations. The Lightning were undone by injuries on defense and horrible goaltending, and failed to make the playoffs in 2011-12 after coming within one goal of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final.

The biggest offseason addition was Anders Lindback, who could be the long-term anchor in net this franchise has lacked since Nikolai Khabibulin left. Yzerman also beefed up the defense corps, and some talented kids could help bolster the forward depth behind stars Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis.

Watch out for rookie Cory Conacher, who will likely skate with Vincent Lecavalier and Teddy Purcell on the second line. Conacher was the MVP in the American Hockey League in 2011-12, and could be a Calder Trophy dark horse.

Injury report: Washington will be without forward Brooks Laich, who has yet to practice with the team because of a groin injury. The Capitals could welcome back defenseman Tom Poti, who hasn't played since Jan. 12, 2011, because of a broken pelvis and groin injuries. Poti passed a physical and has practiced with the team. … The only injured player for Tampa Bay is defenseman Matthias Ohlund, who has had multiple knee injuries and may not be able to play again for the Lightning.

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