Pregame #64: Capitals vs. Lightning

Washington Capitals (42-13-8) vs. Tampa Bay Lightning (26-25-11)
Verizon Center       
7:00 pm
TV: Comcast SportsNet
Radio: 820AM, 1500AM and XM
Previous Games:
Dec 7, 2009    WSH@TBL    W, 3-0
Jan 12, 2010   WSH@TBL     L, 7-4
Jan 31, 2010   TBL@WSH     W, 3-2
Remaining Games:
Jan 12, 2010 TBL@WSH
Jan 20, 2010 WSH@TBL

The Washington Capitals look to extend their franchise-best 11-game home ice win streak tonight, while the Tampa Bay Lightning will look to avoid dropping their 7th straight. Tonight is the second contest of the Caps first back-to-back of the season, after beating Ryan Miller and the Sabres 3-1 last night in Buffalo. The Bolts will look to right the ship after being knocked senseless Tuesday by the Philadelphia Flyers, a 7-2 loss in their first game after the Olympic Break. Newly acquired Scott Walker, Eric Belanger, and Joe Corvo will make their first appearance in the red, white, and blue of the Capitals tonight – just one day after the NHL’s trade deadline. While TB is fighting to climb into playoff contention, currently 2 points out of 8th place, DC is looking to extend their lead in the Eastern Conference (13 points over the New Jersey Devils) and the League (3 points over the Chicago Blackhawks). 

Become well informed with What To Watch For, after the jump.

– Goalie Do-Si-Do: After Jose Theodore‘s 23 save performance in last night’s contest, well-rested Semyon Varlamov will get the nod tonight for the Capitals. Although not playing since a 6-5 loss to the Senators on February 11th, Varlamov was between the pipes for the Caps’ blanking of the Bolts on December 7th. Tampa Bay will be starting Mike Smith tonight, after pulling Antero Niittymaki for the second time in his past three starts. Smith is 10-14-6, with a .902 Sv % and 2.99 GAA.

– New Faces in New Places: As we mentioned, tonight marks the first time Scott Walker, Eric Belanger, and Joe Corvo will hear the cheers of the Phone Booth instead of the jeers. Belanger will centering the third line, flanked by Tomas Fleishmann (who is returning to his natural position) and Eric Fehr. Walker will be playing on the right side of  Jason Chimera and Boyd Gordon, completing the grinder’s 4th line. Corvo also gets the nod tonight, and will be on the ice with Tom Poti for the second set of blueliners. Healthy scratches tonight include Dave Steckel, Matt Bradley, and John Erskine. Things could get interesting as members of the Caps roster will need to battle for playing time with the crowding from the recent acquisitions.

– Unleash the Fury: Alex Ovechkin, Alex Semin, and Nick Backstrom were each held without a point in last night’s win over the Sabres, and will look to reverse the fortune tonight against the Bolts. Ovechkin has had his best games against best against Tampa Bay, and has lit the lamp 23 times and added 23 helpers in 33 career games the Southeast Division rivals.

For our Player to Watch, we turn to fellow Bloguin blogger extraordinaire Vancity Canuck of The Hockey Bay Blog

After the Olympic break watch out for Steven Stamkos who before the break was 4th in the league for goals at 35, and has had 10 goals and 14 assists in the last 13 games. Expect that after the rest from the break for Stamkos to come back ready to try for a push to the playoffs for the Lightning.