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Southeast foes set to start second-round series

by Corey Masisak


Season series:
Washington won four of the six meetings this season, but when the games were played had some effect on the outcome. The Capitals won the first two contests 6-3 and 6-0 before the Lightning added Dwayne Roloson via trade. The Lightning won the next two with Roloson pitching shutouts before the Capitals claimed the final two, though the sixth meeting went to a shootout.

Big story:
These members of the Southeast Division will meet in the postseason for the first time since Alex Ovechkin and Steven Stamkos became the faces of their respective franchises.

Team Scope:

Lightning: Tampa Bay comes to Washington on a three-game winning streak, erasing a 3-1 series deficit against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Lightning showed they could do it with offense (an 8-2 win) as well as defense and goaltending (a 1-0 victory in Game 7).

While the big guns helped the Lightning to rally against the Penguins, Tampa Bay’s third line was also a big story in the series. Nate Thompson, Dominic Moore and Sean Bergenheim have given the team depth beyond the likes of Stamkos, Martin St. Louis and Vinny Lecavalier. Stamkos got off to a slow start against Pittsburgh but played much better near the end of the series.

"I think you have to be physical on him," Washington forward Brooks Laich said. "I think he's a very good player but I don't think the game plan changes -- take his time and space away and be physical on him."

Capitals: Washington was the only team to advance in the Eastern Conference and not need a seventh (or a sixth) game to do so. There weren't a lot of goals in the Capitals' first-round series with the New York Rangers, but Ovechkin and Alexander Semin scored some key goals as did role players like Jason Chimera (two game-winners).

The biggest strength for the Capitals against the Rangers was penalty killing, but the Lightning will offer a step up in competition in that department. There aren't many questions about the goaltending in Washington right now after Michal Neuvirth allowed only eight goals in the five games and played every minute.

Who's hot: St. Louis, named Thursday as a Hart Trophy finalist, was Tampa Bay's top offensive player against the Penguins with 4 goals and 8 points. … Ovechkin led the Capitals with 6 points in the first round, while rookie center Marcus Johansson had 4 points in the final four games of the series.

Injury report: Defenseman Randy Jones hasn't played since early March for Tampa Bay because of a lower-body injury. … Washington will be without right wing Mike Knuble (hand/wrist) and defensemen Tom Poti (groin) and Dennis Wideman (leg) at the start of the series. Knuble expects to play against the Lightning at some point, while the status of the two defensemen are uncertain.

Stat pack:
Every series can be about the goaltenders, but none were better in the first round than Roloson and Neuvirth. There may be 18 years between the two netminders, but Roloson was first in save percentage (.949) while Neuvirth was second (.946); Neuvirth was tops in goals against average (1.38) and Roloson was second (1.77).

Puck drop:
This game could be a classic example of rest versus rust. Washington has not played since Saturday after wrapping up the Rangers in five games, while Tampa Bay has been rolling for the past three games and just played Wednesday night.

"I think in the playoffs [the rest] gives you a little advantage but it not like you have 100 percent change you're going to win," Ovechkin said.

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