Washington looks to extend its winning streak to three games Tuesday night as it hosts a rather beaten up Lightning squad at Verizon Center.
Tampa Bay is without top player Steven Stamkos (broken right tibia) and top defenseman Victor Hedman (lower body), along with Ryan Malone (lower body), Tom Pyatt (broken collar bone), Brian Lee (knee) and Keith Aulie (broken hand), and has slipped to fourth place in the Atlantic Division with 36 points.
It’s been quite the reversal of fortunes for the Lightning, who were in first place in the Atlantic Division back on Nov. 11, which was when Stamkos suffered his broken leg at Boston. Since he’s been sidelined Tampa Bay has gone 5-5-2 and has won only one of its last four games.
Still, Coach Adam Oates wants to make sure the Capitals focus on building off of the two strong games they played over the weekend. The Lightning may have several injuries, but Oates knows that their veterans will do all they can to ensure there isn’t a drop off so it’s important for Washington to stay on course.
“They have another superstar in Marty [St. Louis] and a guy who brings it every single night,” Oates said. “The team, of course you’re going to miss one of your best players if not the [best player]. But the fact that you’ve got another guy that pulls the ship every night, he won’t let other guys relax and they’ve got a lot of good hockey players on that team.”
>> Braden Holtby will make his 25th appearance of the season with a start against Tampa Bay after getting a night off in New York on Sunday. He is 3-1-0 with a 3.69 goals against average and .888 save percentage against the Lightning in his career.
>> After skating for the first time since Nov. 27 on Sunday, Brooks Laich did not skate Monday or Tuesday and remains sidelined indefinitely by a strained right groin muscle.
>> Michal Neuvirth took part in the morning skate but will remain on injured reserve for at least another day. Oates said it’s uncertain whether Neuvirth, who injured his right ankle when he slipped on a puck on Nov. 29, would be ready to return to the active roster in time for Friday’s game at the Florida Panthers.
>> Here are the projected lineups for both teams.
Martin St. Louis-Tyler Johnson-Ondrej Palat
Nikita Kucherov-Valtteri Filppula-Alex Killorn
Teddy Purcell-Nate Thompson-J.T. Brown
Pierre-Cedric Labrie-Dana Tyrell-B.J. Crombeen
Eric Brewer-Andrej Sustr
Radko Gudas-Matt Carle
Mark Barberio-Sami Salo
Ben Bishop is expected to start.