Tampa Bay is having an off year, but is not as soft a team as their points standings would lead you to believe given the number 1 point overtime losses they have this season - 11. If the Lightning had those 11 more points, they'd have 60 standings points instead of 49 and be in the thick of the battle for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot. They'd also have only given up 160 goals against vice 171 however,unlike the Capitals who have given up 160 goals against this season, the Lightning have only scored 141 goals for while the Caps have turned on the red goal lamp 182 times; both teams have played 55 games to date. So if your looking at overall productivity and weaknesses; the Caps have scored an average of 3.31 goals/game and have allowed an average of 2.91 goals per game (an average of +0.40 goals/game); the Lightning have scored an average of 2.56 goals/game while allowing an average of 3.12 goals/game (an average of -0.56 goals/game.) Additionally coming into tonight's game the Caps are 6-2-2 in their last 10 while the Lightning are a respectable 5-4-1. While the Caps lost their last game to the Rangers, the Lightning beat the visiting Maple Leafs 6-4 on Thursday evening in their last outing. As Tampa Bay has struggled in their games this year, so too apparently have they struggled in filling up the seats at the Forum, judging from their great offer for a package of two seats to tonights game that includes, 2 beers or sodas, two hot dogs and a parking pass for $39.00 - that's almost cheaper than going to a movie these days. [ed note: Had I seen that offer earlier, perhaps I would have had "wingman" join me in Tampa for the weekend rather than coming home for President's Day Weekend. Probably should have looked at these two games as an opportunity for a long weekend with the family in Florida, before 11AM on Saturday morning - Mark muses...]
The biggest issue for the Capitals tonight - SHOULD - be the potential concern they look beyond tonight's game to tomarrow's against red hot second place Florida. However, Tampa Bay does have some real weapons on offense and if they can hold the Capitals to three or fewer goals tonight's game won't be easy for the Caps. The injury situation for the Caps in goal means that Michal Neuvirth may well see his first NHL action either tonight or tommarrow against the Panthers at Sunrise, unless Jose Theodore goes for both games. Speculation is Theo will be in the net one of the two nights this weekend and then rest the other There is little doubt he'll then return to take on one of his former teams - the Montreal Canadiens at Verizon Center next Wednsday evening. At the oppositte end of the rink, because of injuries to Olie Kolzig and Mike Smith, Tampa Bay is "getting by" or trying to with with Karri Ramo and Mike McKenna in the interim. It appears that rookie Mike Mckenna will make his fifth consecutive start in net against the Capitals. There is no doubt that both Vincient Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis will come out gunning and both Ryan Malone and hearladed rookie Steve Stamkos have been "stepping it up" a nothch of late. For the Caps, it appears likely that Aleander Semin will return to the line up after a one game absence but that Viktor Kozlov will remain sidelined tonight. Semin will likely be paired with Ovechkin and Backstrom on the first line. Where Michael Nylander skates on the second or third line, center or wing, remains a mystery at this point however early speculation is he will center the third line. Jay Beagle has remained up with the Caps and traveled to Florida with the team and it appears he will center the fourth line tonight as pivot between Donald Brashear and Boyd Gordon. Over the past couple of games the Defensive corps and pairings have remained steady but with the With the official addition of defenseman Staffan Kronwall to the roster, the Capitals now have eight healthy rearguards on their roster. It seems likely that all eight defenders will see action in the two games this weekend, and early speculation is that Kronwall will play tonight on the second pairing with Tom Poti.
Of course many eyes around the league tonight will be on "Game Over" Mike Green to see if he breaks the NHL record for most consecutive games with a goal by a defenseman. As any Caps Fan with a pulse knows, Green has scored in each of his last seven games, matching the mark establised by Boston's Mike O'Connell in 1984. With multiple point games in six straight games, the young Caps blueliner has matched a feat achieved by only Bobby Orr, Ray Bourque and Paul Coffey - that heady hall of fame company have been the only defensmen who have had half a dozen consecutive multiple-point games among all defensemen in NHL history. Congratulations Mike and GOOD LUCK tonight. It would be an even sweeter record, if you and the boys brought back four points from the trip this weekend ;->
1) Mike Green 1 G, 1A, new record set.
2) Nuevirth gets the start; wins first NHL game.
3) Semin returns scores a goal to keep on his pace.
4) Ovie & Backstrom combine for 3 points, not sure of the mix.
5) Lightning goals by Saint Louis, Stamkos, and Malone - Lecavilier has 2 assists.
6) Caps 5 Lightning 3.
LETS GO CAPS!!!!!!!!!!!!