Washington Capitals (11-4-0) v. Tampa Bay Lightning (8-4-2)
7:00 PM EST – Verizon Center – Washington, D.C.
TV/Radio: CSN-DC; Caps Radio 1500
Last game: The Capitals left the friendly confines of Verizon Center to take on the New York Rangers on Broadway and left with a 5-3 win in a chippy game. Matt Hendricks scored the game-winning goal and Mike Knuble, Brooks Laich and John Erskine joined him on the goal side of the Capitals’ scoresheet.
Possible lineup for Washington:
Outlook: The Capitals have run away with the Southeast Division over the past few seasons. According to Mike Vogel, the average point differential between the Caps and the Lightning in the standings over the last 11 seasons is 29. Suffice to say, that should not be the case this year. The Lightning are off to their best start since 2003-04, when they won the Stanley Cup. Tampa Bay is an offensive juggernaut; they average 3.06 G/G (6th in NHL), 23.7% on the power play (6th) and have scored 43 total goals (7th). Steven Stamkos can be held responsible; his 13 goals, 24 points and six power play goals are all tops in the NHL.
The Capitals have some league leaders of their own. Brooks Laich leads all skaters with a plus-13 rating, while Michal Neuvirth leads all goalies with nine wins. Speaking of goaltenders, Braden Holtby will be sticking around for a bit longer after the Caps sent Semyon Varlamov to AHL Hershey Wednesday. Marcus Johansson is also back with the team after being recalled from Hershey Wednesday.
Once again, the Capitals are playing a team that is suffering as many injuries as they are. The Lightning are without both Simon Gagne (neck) and Steve Downie (back) and neither will play in Washington Thursday.