Game 39 Preview: Caps Host Tampa Bay Lightning

Posted by Dave Nichols | Thursday, January 01, 2009 | , , | 0 comments »

The Washington Capitals (24-11-3, first in Southeast) host the Tampa Bay Lightning (10-16-10, fourth in Southeast) at 7:00 PM from Verizon Center.

The Capitals continue to be one of the hottest teams in the NHL, winners of four in a row and 11 of their last 13 games.

Goalie Jose Theodore has been one of the big reasons for the current streak, as he's been in net for each of the previous four wins. Coach Bruce Boudreau, however, will start Brent Johnson against the Bolts tonight, citing the need to keep both netminders sharp.

In the most recent victory, the Caps travelled to Buffalo, a place that has traditionally been a house of horrors for them, and defeated the Sabres 4-2. Winger Chris Bourque, recalled due to Matt Bradley's awkward spill into the boards in the Toronto game and Donald Brashear's lingering leg bruise, scored his first NHL goal, knocking in a long rebound on Buffalo's Ryan Miller.

Center Niklas Backstrom has been outstanding lately, registering 21 points (6 goals, 15 assists) in his last 14 games, and has 38 points in 29 games. He is ninth in the league in scoring for the season (11-31-42, plus-5).

Tampa Bay has struggled to recover from their horrendous start that saw former coach Barry Melrose fired just a few weeks into the season and replaced with Rick Tocchet.

The Lightning dropped their last contest, a 2-1 shootout loss to Montreal, but had won their previous three before that loss. Before the recent spate of good play, Tampa had lost 12 of 13, dating back to Thanksgiving. They are 3-10 in shootouts and 4-13 overall in overtime.

Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier pace Tampa Bay in scoring. St. Louis has 32 points (13 goals, 19 assists), while Lecavalier is just two points behind (14-16-30).

The Lightning's number one goalie is Mike Smith. His tema's record belie his excellent play so far this season. He is the owner of an 8-12-16 record with a 2.42 goals against average and .923 save percentage. Olaf Kolzig, owner of most of Washington's goaltending records, is the normal backup, but will miss the game with an upper body injury.

WAS: PP-4th (23.6%, 37/157); PK-24th (79.9%, 36/179)
TBY: PP-24th (14.6%, 24/164); PK-19th (81.1%, 36/190)

WAS: D John Erskine (Concussion-IR); D Brian Pothier (Concussion-OUT); C Sergei Federov (Ankle-IR); D Tom Poti (Groin-IR); LW Alexander Semin (Back-IR); Tomas Fleischmann (Pneumonia-OUT); Matt Bradley (Head/Neck-Questionable); Donald Brashear (Leg-Questionable)

TB: D David Koci (Hand-IR); LW Gary Roberts (Groin-IR); G Olaf Kolzig (Upper body-Questionable); D Marek Malik (Flu-Questionable)