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Preview: Capitals at Lightning

Washington can clinch playoff berth with win; Tampa Bay chasing wild-card spot

by Corey Long / NHL.com Correspondent

CAPITALS (45-17-8) at LIGHTNING (34-27-9)

7 p.m. ET, SUN, CSN-DC, NHL.TV

 

Capitals team scope

The Washington Capitals can be the first team to clinch a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs if they defeat the Tampa Bay Lightning in any fashion. The Capitals are tied with the Columbus Blue Jackets for first place in the Metropolitan Division and the Eastern Conference. "This is an absolutely must-win game," coach Barry Trotz said. "Our recent record has been unacceptable. What are they, 12-3-3 in their last 18 games? That's a lot better than us." Washington is 1-4-1 in its past six games. Forward Andre Burakovsky will return to the lineup for the first time since Feb. 9, when he injured his hand blocking a shot against the Detroit Red Wings. "Obviously I've been out for five weeks or whatever, so it's going to be a little bit new for me to come in and play," Burakovsky said Friday. "But I'm going to come back quick. I felt really good. I'm in good shape and ready to go."

 

Lightning team scope

The Lightning are one point behind the Toronto Maple Leafs for the second wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference. They may have avoided adding to their ever-growing injury list, with forward Ondrej Palat and defenseman Jake Dotchin each participating in an optional morning skate Saturday after missing practice Friday. "We'll see how they look in warmups," coach Jon Cooper said. "[But] it was encouraging this morning." Injured centers Tyler Johnson, Vladislav Namestnikov and Cedric Paquette will not play. Tampa Bay, which lost 5-0 to the Maple Leafs on Thursday, is 9-3-1 in its past 13 games. "We just have to move on from that," Dotchin said of the loss to Toronto. "[Washington] has a lot of skill guys, lot of speed guys, a bit of everything and we have to stir it up a bit to see where it takes us." The Lightning would like to get some secondary scoring; forward Alex Killorn has gone 16 games without a goal and forward Jonathan Drouin has gone 11 games without one.

 

Capitals projected lineup

Alex Ovechkin -- Nicklas Backstrom -- T.J. Oshie

Marcus Johansson -- Evgeny Kuznetsov -- Justin Williams

Brett Connolly -- Lars Eller -- Andre Burakovsky

Daniel Winnik -- Jay Beagle -- Tom Wilson

Karl Alzner -- John Carlson

Dmitry Orlov -- Matt Niskanen

Brooks Orpik -- Kevin Shattenkirk

Braden Holtby

Philipp Grubauer

Scratched: Nate Schmidt

Injured: None

 

Lightning projected lineup

Ondrej Palat -- Brayden Point -- Nikita Kucherov

Alex Killorn -- Yanni Gourde -- Jonathan Drouin

Gabriel Dumont -- Byron Froese -- Adam Erne

J.T. Brown -- Greg McKegg -- Luke Witkowski

Victor Hedman -- Jake Dotchin

Jason Garrison -- Anton Stralman

Braydon Coburn -- Andrej Sustr

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Peter Budaj

Scratched: None

Injured: Steven Stamkos (knee surgery), Ryan Callahan (hip), Tyler Johnson (lower body), Cedric Paquette (lower body), Vladislav Namestnikov (lower body)

 

Status report

The Lightning made an emergency call-up of forward Joel Vermin, but he will be sent back to Syracuse of the American Hockey League if Palat is able to play. ... Stamkos participated in a full practice with the Lightning on Friday. ... The Capitals sent forward Jakub Vrana to Hershey of the AHL to make room for Burakovsky.

 

Who's hot

Backstrom has four assists in his past three games. ... Kucherov has 20 points (10 goals, 10 assists) in his past 12 games. ... Hedman has 17 points (seven goals, 10 assists) in his past 15 games. ... Vasilevskiy is 6-1-1 with 14 goals allowed in his past eight starts.

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