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Lightning at Capitals preview

League-leading Tampa Bay has lost four straight games, 10 of past 11 at Washington

by Brian McNally / Correspondent

LIGHTNING (16-3-2) at CAPITALS (12-10-1)



The Game

The League-leading Tampa Bay Lightning are on an 11-2-1 run entering their game against the Washington Capitals at Capital One Arena on Friday.

However, Washington has won its past four home games against Tampa Bay and is 10-0-1 in the past 11.

The Lightning lead the NHL with 34 points and have three winning streaks of four games or longer. Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos has an NHL-best 36 points (10 goals, 26 assists), three ahead of teammate Nikita Kucherov (17 goals, 16 assists). Stamkos has points in 18 of 21 games and Kucherov in 17 of 21.

The Capitals revamped their lines in a 5-2 win against the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday. Left wing Alex Ovechkin ended a six-game goal drought after being reunited with center Nicklas Backstrom, who had an assist.


Players to watch

Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy has allowed two goals or fewer in 11 of his past 14 starts, including a 3-2 overtime win against the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday.

Capitals forward Evgeny Kuznetsov has power-play goals in three of his past four games. He has eight points (three goals, five assists) in his past seven games and is tied for eighth in the League with 26 points.


They said it

"It can't be a circus act every single night, especially as the season gets going. Because you know how it is. Scores go from 6-5 to 2-1, and you've got to be able to win those 2-1 games ." -- Lightning coach Jon Cooper, whose team leads the League with 83 goals


"It doesn't have to be forever, but they do have a special, unique chemistry that [Backstrom] can read off of Ovi. And by playing [Evgeny Kuznetsov] for so long with Ovi, too, it opens up some windows so we have those options. We'll just go game by game." -- Capitals coach Barry Trotz on whether he will continue playing Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom together.


Lightning projected lineup

Vladislav Namestnikov -- Steven Stamkos -- Nikita Kucherov

Ondrej Palat -- Brayden Point -- Yanni Gourde

Alex Killorn -- Tyler Johnson -- Ryan Callahan

Chris Kunitz -- Cedric Paquette -- J.T. Brown

Victor Hedman -- Dan Girardi

Mikhail Sergachev -- Anton Stralman

Braydon Coburn -- Andrej Sustr

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Peter Budaj

Scratched: Slater Koekkoek, Cory Conacher

Injured: Jake Dotchin (undisclosed)


Capitals projected lineup

Alex Ovechkin -- Nicklas Backstrom -- Tom Wilson

Jakub Vrana -- Evgeny Kuznetsov -- T.J. Oshie

Brett Connolly -- Lars Eller -- Devante Smith-Pelly

Chandler Stephenson -- Jay Beagle -- Alex Chiasson

Dmitry Orlov -- Matt Niskanen

Brooks Orpik -- John Carlson

Taylor Chorney -- Madison Bowey

Philipp Grubauer

Braden Holtby


Scratched: Aaron Ness, Nathan Walker

Injured: Andre Burakovsky (fractured left thumb), Christian Djoos (upper body)


Status report

The Lightning (at the Pittsburgh Penguins) and Capitals (at the Toronto Maple Leafs) each play Saturday. This will be the first time Grubauer starts in the first game of a back-to-back this season. Grubauer is 3-0-1 with a 2.61 goals-against average and .923 save percentage against Tampa Bay, including 36 saves in a 4-3 shootout loss on Oct. 9. Holtby will start Saturday. … Djoos skated for the first time since he was injured on Nov. 14. … Burakovsky skated with a smaller cast on his left hand. He had surgery Oct. 24 with an expected timetable for a return of 6-8 weeks. ... The Lightning recalled Conacher from Syracuse of the American Hockey League.


Stat pack

The Lightning have a power-play goal in six of their last seven games. … Ovechkin leads the League in shots on goal (104).

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