Batten down the hatches! The Tampa Bay Lightning are slumping their way through undeniably the hardest stretch of the schedule all season. It doesn't get any easier tonight when they face the Capitals for the last time, barring a reunion in the playoffs. It's arguably the most important game of the season, and once again first place is on the line.
In order to regain their perch at the top of the Southeast, the Bolts will have to shake off three straight losses at the hands of the New Jersey Devils, the Boston Bruins, and the Montreal Canadiens. Luckily, Vincent Lecavalier returned to action Saturday after missing a game with what was described as a "Mid-Body injury."
While the slump is certainly no fun to watch, it comes at the best time possible, if there is such a thing. The Lightning will have most of their injured players returning within a month, and have plenty of games left to build some momentum heading into the playoffs.
Below, we'll look at the 2011 trade deadline day deals and other headlines from the rest of the teams in the division.
The shakeup didn't seem to help, as the Thrash lost to Montreal and Ottawa, and needed overtime to beat the Panthers.
Acquired: Bryan Allen (from Florida)
Sent Away: Sergei Samsonov (Florida)
The Canes are in an absolute dogfight with the Buffalo Sabres and New York Rangers for the final playoff spots in the East. Will the moves they have made get them to pay dirt?
Acquired: Niclas Bergfors (from Atlanta), Patrick Rissmiller (from Atlanta), Jake Hauswirth (from Washington), Sergei Samsonov (from Carolina), Evan Oberg (from Vancouver), two 3rd round picks (from Washington, from Vancouver)
The Panthers have only won four games since the end of January. The fire sale seems to make a little more sense when you consider that. I'm surprised they didn't move soon-to-be UFA goaltender Tomas Vokoun, but perhaps they'll try to re-sign him during what is setting up to be an important summer in Sunrise?
Acquired: Dennis Wideman (from Florida), Jason Arnott (from New Jersey)
Sent Away: Jake Hauswirth (Florida), David Steckel (New Jersey), 2nd round pick (New Jersey), 3rd round pick (Florida)
The Jason Arnott acquisition paid immediate dividends for the Capitals, as he assisted the game tying goal in his first game as a Cap, and scored the game winner in his second game.
The two savvy moves have already boosted the Caps back to the top of the division; perhaps they'll also finally propel them to some playoff success as well.
Unrelated: As has been discussed here several times, the Capitals have had a rather strange season. Especially offensively. This sheds some light on the subject.
Important Matchups this week: Capitals at Lightning (tonight, 3-7), Thrashers at Hurricanes (Wednesday, 3-9)