Gameday: at Tampa Bay, Jan. 19

Photo by Examiner

The Washington Capitals will be in Tampa, Florida Saturday evening as they kick off the 2013 season with a game against the Southeast Division rival Lightning.  The Capitals finished last season in seventh place in the Eastern Conference before losing in seven games to the Rangers in the Conference semifinals under the jurisdiction of Dale Hunter.  With Hunter now gone and Adam Oates in charge, Washington begins their quest for the franchise’s first Stanley Cup with act one of a furious 48-game sprint to the finish before the playoffs begin.  It should be one hell of a ride.

Third-year coach Guy Boucher, who many believe to be on the hot seat heading in to this year, will give the nod in goal to summer acquisition Anders Lindback.  Lindback posted a 2.42 GAA and .912 save percentage last season for the Predators in a backup role and will be relied upon to be the force in goal that the Lightning lacked last season.  Outside of the goal crease, Tampa is not suffering from any injuries to their regulars and expects to field their full lineup.  That includes summer signing Matt Carle on defense, who will run the power play.

After his stellar playoff run for the Capitals last season, Braden Holtby will get the call in nets from Oates.  The Lloydminster, Saskatchewan native posted a 2.49 GAA and .922 save percentage in 7 regular season games last year, but upped those to a ridiculous 1.95 and .935 in 14 playoff games.  Holtby has earned this start, but what will be interesting is how Oates responds when the inevitable drop-off comes.  The Capitals will be without jack-of-all trades Brooks Laich up front, who is out while recovering from a groin injury he sustained in Switzerland during the lockout.  Eric Fehr and Joey Crabb will be the healthy scratches up front as the Capitals go with only 11 forwards.  Defenseman Tom Poti will make his return to active duty following a two-year injury layoff tonight, and will skate alongside Jack Hillen and Jeff Schultz as Washington goes with 7 defensemen; this means that John Erskine is a healthy scratch.  Fellow rearguard Dmitry Orlov is out with an upper-body injury and did not make the journey to Florida.

The game can be seen locally on Comcast Sportsnet.  Puck drop is 7:07-ish.

Harry Hawkings is a college student credentialed to cover the Capitals for RtR.  Follow him on Twitter here for all your news needs this season.

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