WASHINGTON – The Tampa Bay Lightning's regular-season finale has taken on significant importance.
To secure home-ice advantage for their Eastern Conference First Round series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Montreal Canadiens, the Lightning must defeat the Washington Capitals on Sunday at Verizon Center.
Tampa Bay, which is making its second Stanley Cup Playoff appearance in seven years, has not had home-ice advantage in a series since winning the Stanley Cup in 2004.
"We'd love to have home ice," Lightning defenseman Eric Brewer told reporters. "Clearly it's something that you never want to use, but you'd love to have. The other thing is you just want to play well going into the playoffs."
To do so, the Lightning might have to overcome an injury-ravaged lineup. Forward Valtteri Filppula, and defensemen Sami Salo and Victor Hedman, are all questionable.
Forward Ryan Malone's status for the postseason is uncertain after he was arrested and charged with driving under the influence and cocaine possession early Saturday morning.
As for the Capitals, their season comes to an end Sunday after missing the playoffs for the first time since 2007. A win would give the Capitals their longest winning streak of the season at five games, but they take little solace in that knowing that they failed to reach their goals.
"When you lose in a Game 7 usually you can tell yourself you went out swinging," defenseman Karl Alzner said. "You're in the playoffs. You had a chance to win the Cup. When you don't put yourself in [the playoffs]…one's more of a crushing one and one is more of an embarrassing one."
Here are the projected lineups for the Lightning and Capitals:
Ondrej Palat – Tyler Johnson – Steven Stamkos
Ryan Callahan – Tom Pyatt – Alex Killorn
J.T. Brown – Cedric Paquette – Nikita Kucherov
Richard Panik – Nate Thompson – B.J. Crombeen
Matt Carle – Radko Gudas
Eric Brewer – Andrej Sustr
Mark Barberio – Michael Kostka
Scratched: Ryan Malone (arrest), Cody Kunyk, Keith Aulie
Injured: Valtteri Filppula (lower body), Teddy Purcell (illness), Sami Salo (upper body), Victor Hedman (lower body), Ben Bishop (upper body)
Mikhail Grabovski – Nicklas Backstrom – Alex Ovechkin
Dustin Penner – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera – Eric Fehr – Joel Ward
Peter LeBlanc – Jay Beagle – Tom Wilson
Karl Alzner – John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov – Tyson Strachan
Julien Brouillette – Connor Carrick
Scratched: Aaron Volpatti, John Erskine
Injured: Brooks Laich (groin), Marcus Johansson (upper body), Mike Green (upper body), Jack Hillen (upper body), Patrick Wey (upper body)