Tonight marks the first of six battles between Southeast division rivals Tampa Bay Lightning and the Washington Capitals. The Capitals currently hold the top spot in the division, four points ahead of the Lightning who look to snap Washington’s five-game winning streak.
Over the past three seasons, the Capitals (11-4-0) have dominated play against the Bolts, winning 15 of the 17 meetings, which has also included winning nine of their last 11 matchups at the Verizon Center. Washington won last year’s season series 4-2, but the Bolts snapped the Caps 12-game winning streak in series. All three games at the Verizon Center were decided by one goal, where the Caps were 2-1-0… Alex Ovechkin had 10 points (4G, 6A) in six games against the Bolts and Tomas Fleischmann was second on the team with 7 points (2G, 5A).
Washington has had great success at home so far this season and come into tonight’s game having won four straight… the lone loss at home came on October 19th. It’s the fourth straight season that the Capitals have had a winning streak of at least five games after going five seasons without one.
The Bolts (8-4-2) snapped a 3-game losing streak with a 4-0 win over Toronto on Tuesday at home. Steven Stamkos had two goals and upped his league lead to 13 and in adding a power-play goal increased his league lead to 6 with the man advantage. Dan Ellis made 28 saves to notch his 2nd shutout in his past three games and 12th career. Nate Thompson and Dominic Moore also scored for the Bolts. As well, the Bolts set a season-high with 22 blocked shots.
Led by Stamkos’ six power play goals the Bolts’ power play is sixth in the league with a 23.7% success rate. Tampa Bay is third in the league with a 90.6% kill rate, and the Lightning is 10th with a 51.5% face-off win rate.
Tonight the Bolts look to pick up their second consecutive win and their second in the month – more importantly though, they’ll be looking to snap their three game road losing streak. Beginning with tonight’s game the Lightning will play five of their next six games on the road where they’re 4-3-1.
Dan Ellis will get the start in goal… his second consecutive and fourth in the teams last six. He recorded his second shutout in his last three starts in Tuesday’s 4-0 win over the Leafs.
The Lightning has gained points in 3 out of 4 games that Ellis has started this season on the road. In his last 5 road starts, Ellis is 3-1-1 with a 2.32 GAA and a .919 save-percentage. Overall, Ellis is 3-0-1, both home and away, in his last 4 games, posting a 0.78 GAA and a .971 save-percentage
Combined with Mike Smith, the duo has combined for a 7-3-1 record in their last 11 road starts with a 2.13 GAA and a .927 save-percentage.
Playing in New York on Tuesday against the Rangers, the Caps behind Brooks Laich’s two goals and a 28 save performance from Michal Neuvirth were 5-3 winners over John Tortorella’s team. John Erskine, Matt Hendricks and Mike Knuble also scored for the Capitals.
With two assists against the Rangers, Alex Ovechkin is riding the teams’ longest point streak at seven games – during this span he’s recorded four goals with eight assists. Teammates Alexander Semin and Mike Green come into tonight’s game with point streaks of six and five games, respectively.
Nutz and Boltz
For those wanting an update on Simon Gagne’s neck injury – no new news and Gagne remains in Tampa where he continues to undergo tests. In today’s Lightning Strikes blog by St. Pete Times beat writer Damien Cristodero, Coach Guy Boucher sort of described his symptoms… his vision apparently becomes unsteady when he moves his head quickly from side to side. Boucher stressed that Gagne is not dizzy, is continuing to work out (“He feels pretty good energy-wise,” Boucher said) and not showing concussion-like symptoms and that the tests are trying to pinpoint the cause of the unsteady vision.
With Steve Downie remaining in Tampa with because of his back problems, the Bolts will make a call-up from Norfolk of the AHL… no info as to the player and they will not play against the Capitals.
The Bolts has recorded 461 SOG, the NHL’s 8th highest total entering play Wednesday night and has owned the NHL’s highest average of 32.9 shots per game, while ranking ninth with 213 blocked shots (15.2 game average). In their shutout win on Tuesday, the Bolts set a season high with 22 blocks and had the seventh best total of BS on the road with 124. In their 8 wins, they’ve averaged 19.4 B/PG as opposed to just 11.3 in 6 losses.
Steven Stamkos, aside from coming in with an NHL-leading 13 goals in 14 games, leads the team’s forwards with a +8 rating after entering the season with a career rating of -15. He has recorded a plus or even rating in all but 1 game this season (11/6 at San Jose).
Martin St. Louis holds the 4th-longest active consecutive games played streak. Tonight’s game is St. Louis’ 405th consecutive game played for Tampa Bay.
Washington is 8-3-0 when its opponent scores first (.727), the second straight year that the Capitals have led the NHLwhen falling behind, 1-0 (16-8-6 last year). Washington’s opponent has scored first in four of the five games during its winning streak.
Brooks Laich, who hasn’t had a minus game all season, leads the NHL at +13 (entering Wednesday’s games). Laich had two goals and an assist and was +3 Tuesday in New York, reaching the 200-career-point milestone.
Goaltender Michal Neuvirth leads the NHL with nine wins and is halfway to the Capitals rookie record for wins (18 – Jim Carrey 1994-95).
Lightning: Steve Downie (Back; out), Simon Gagne (Neck; IR)
Capitals: Tom Poti (Lower-body; day-to-day)
Lightning Upcoming Games
11/12/2010 @ Pittsburgh Penguins – SUN (HD), NHLN-US (HD)
11/14/2010 @ Home vs. Minnesota Wild – 5:00 PM SUN (HD)
11/17/2010 @ New York Islanders – 7:00 PM SUN (HD)
11/18/2010 @ Philadelphia Flyers – 7:00 PM SUN (HD) NHLN-US (HD)
11/20/2010 @ Buffalo Sabres – 7:30 PM SUN (HD)
For more info: Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals
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