October 10 vs. Tampa Bay Lightning at Verizon Center
Time: 7:00 pm TV: Comcast SportsNet Radio: 1500AM, XM and Caps Radio Network Pre-Game: Morning Skate Report at noon, Pre-Cap Podcast at 2 p.m., John Walton’s one-on-one with Bruce Boudreau at 5 p.m. and Two-Man Advantage pre-game video also at 5 p.m., all on washingtoncaps.com
Tampa Bay Lightning (1-1)
Washington Capitals (1-0)
Washington closes out its two-game season opening homestand with a visit from another division rival on Monday night when the Tampa Bay Lightning comes to Verizon Center for the first of its three 2011-12 visits.
The Caps opened up the campaign on the good foot, earning a 4-3 overtime triumph against the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday night. Mike Green notched the game-winner in overtime, the sixth sudden death strike of his NHL career.
“I think it was important that we got this first win,” says Green, “so that we can not so much dwell on the negative stuff or the mistakes that happened and were going to happen because it was our first game, but more focus on the positives. And now we can move on from there.”
Michal Neuvirth earned the win in goal for Washington in the opener, making 28 saves including a trio of brilliant stops in overtime. Tomas Vokoun is expected to make his Capitals debut in Monday’s game against Tampa Bay. During the course of his NHL career, Vokoun is 11-7-1 with a 2.60 GAA and a .921 save pct. against the Lightning.
The Caps were swept out of the second round of the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the hands of the Bolts last May. The two teams battled neck and neck for the Southeast Division crown throughout most of the 2010-11 regular season, with Washington prevailing by a four-point margin, 107-103.
Both teams are ready to do battle for the Southeast crown again this season, and the Caps are looking for a small measure of revenge for their playoff ouster.
“We owe them a good game,” says Green. “They took us down last year in four and that’s something you don’t forget. It doesn’t mean we’re gunning out there for anybody, it just means that we’re going to play our hardest game and make sure we challenge them.”
Two nights after going up against Carolina’s Eric Staal, the Caps’ checking line of Jason Chimera, Brooks Laich and Joel Ward will almost certainly draw the assignment of trying to limit the Lightning’s top trio of Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos and Steve Downie.
“I think they’re maybe one of the top two or three lines in the league,” says Laich of the Tampa Bay threesome. “As soon as a puck is turned over, St. Louis and Stamkos are gone. And they can both really skate. Their speed presents a problem, but that being said, we’ve just got to control the game and control the puck. If we make smart plays and get pucks in, then they can’t use their transition. We obviously have a lot of respect for them, but we want to make it tough on them at the same time.”
“They’ve got a lot of weapons,” says Caps coach Bruce Boudreau. “Those three are great, but they’ve got a lot of weapons. [Ryan] Malone, [Vincent] Lecavalier and [Teddy] Purcell aren’t too bad, either. They’re a very good team. And the last time we saw them, they beat us four times in a row. It should be a very interesting game.”
Boudreau was asked about Tampa Bay’s opportunistic neutral zone game, where the Lightning likes to force turnovers and use its speed to effect a strong transition game.
“I don’t know how you combat it,” says Boudreau. “You just try not to have turnovers. It’s easier said than done. And every team that plays them tries the same thing; let’s limit the turnovers at the neutral zone because they’re so quick and good in transition from the blueline back. So you just try to find different ways to shut them down and not allow it to happen.”
The Caps scored a pair of power play markers in the season opener, one in a 5-on-3 and one in a 4-on-3 situation. The Capitals also surrendered two power play strikes to the Hurricanes, both of the more conventional 5-on-4 variety.
The Lightning will be playing its third game in four nights and the middle match of a five-game, season-opening road trip. The Bolts open at home a week from tonight when they host the Florida Panthers at St. Pete Times Forum.
Tampa Bay trounced Carolina 5-1 in Friday’s season opener, but absorbed a 4-1 beating from the Bruins a night later.
The Lightning still must face the Islanders and Panthers on its current road trip.
Two days shy of his 42nd birthday, Dwayne Roloson is the Lightning’s likely netminder for Monday. He went 28-18-4 for the Bolts after being obtained in a New Year’s Day deal with the New York Islanders.
Roloson is 8-5-4 with four shutouts, a 2.11 GAA and a .923 save pct. lifetime against the Capitals. He blanked Washington twice in succession last January, and permitted 10 goals in four playoff games to the Capitals last spring.
The Lightning signed veteran journeyman Mathieu Garon to serve as Roloson’s understudy, a move that should enable the team to ease the aging Roloson’s workload. The two split the season’s first two games with Roloson winning in Carolina and Garon losing in Boston.
Offensively, the Lightning is still led by the trio of Stamkos, St. Louis and Lecavalier. Tampa Bay’s supporting cast supplied consistent contributions during the playoffs, but the aforementioned trio accounted for 42% of the team’s tallies during the 2010-11 regular season.
Those three players have totaled seven points on the Lightning’s first half-dozen goals of 2011-12.
Tampa Bay scored a pair of power play goals in Friday’s win over Carolina, including Lecavalier’s game-winner on a two-man advantage. The Lightning is perfect thus far in 11 penalty killing missions in the young 2011-12 season.