The Washington Capitals will look to build on their one-game lead in the Southeast Division tonight as they host the Tampa Bay Lightning. At 19-17-2, a loss would diminish the lead to a 1/2-game as the second-place Jets don’t play again until they host the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday.
Despite an unimpressive 16-19-2 record, the Lightning pose a significant threat to the Capitals with their division-leading 119 goals for. While the Capitals have allowed the fewest goals in the division (108), they’ve also allowed nine goals against Tampa Bay in the first two match-ups of the season. The teams have split the series 1-1 thus far, Tampa winning 6-3 in the first game of the season and Washington getting its revenge in a 4-3 victory on February 14.
Martin Erat’s status remains questionable as he continues to deal with a leg injury that he suffered on a hit from behind in last night’s game against the Florida Panthers. The hit came from Panthers defenseman Eric Gudbranson, who was ejected after receiving a five-minute major penalty for the flagrant check.
On a brighter note, Alex Ovechkin comes into tonight’s game with 12 goals in his last 10 games, including a hat trick in last night’s 4-3 victory over the Panthers. Ovechkin also delivered the shootout goal that carried the Caps over the New York Islanders in a 2-1 victory on Thursday. The strong performance by the Washington captain puts him second in the league in goal scoring behind Lightning captain Steven Stamkos.