Game on; Tampa Bay Lightning versus Washington Capitals preview

Alex Ovechkin remains the centerpiece of a revamped Washington Capitals offense. - Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

Nine months after the 2011-12 NHL season concluded in Winnipeg for the Tampa Bay Lightning, the franchise resumes its quest for Lord Stanley's Cup in its 2013 season opener against Washington.

WHERE: Tampa Bay Times Forum, Tampa, Florida
WHEN: 7 PM EST | | TICKETS: Check Availability
MEDIA: Sun Sports (cable), 970 AM WFLA (radio)
OPPONENT COVERAGE: Japers' Rink

So, where were we?

Does it even matter anymore? Nine months after the Tampa Lightning took down the former Thrashers of Winnipeg in overtime with thanks to Teddy Purcell's hat trick and Steven Stamkos' 60th goal of the season... We can finally (finally!) focus on the next book, the next chapter, the newest process of becoming; the 48 game sprint toward the storied silver trophy gifted to ice hockey from a certain Lord Stanley.

Does this forgive the past few months of squabbling, theatrics, greed, posturing and general maliciousness from the National Hockey League and the NHL Players Association? No, not in the least. The NHL can run all the public apologies to the fans that they want it still doesn't change the fact that Gary Bettman, Bill Daly, Jeremy Jacobs (and so many others) tried to destroy this league In order to save a buck. That I won't forgive. That I won't forget.

But enough of that. Old news. It's done. Moot. It happened. It's over. Now is what we've been waiting for, now is what had been delayed. "Next season" is now. ‘Tomorrow" is now. Now is now.

The Tampa Bay Lightning kicks off their season sprint this evening at Times Palace against the Washington Capitals. This will be the debut affair for Capitals new head coach Adam Oates. Yes, that's the same Adam Oates who played most of 22 NHL seasons, who severed as power play specialist on the Lightning under former head coach Rick Tocchet, and who was assistant coach under Peter Deboer in New Jersey last season. Oates had co-coached the Hershey Bears of the AHL for a time during the lockout before leaving the team about a month into the season.

Oates replaced the defense-first Dale Hunter as Caps coach... Who had replaced Bruce Boudreau mid-season in Washington. Will the Caps roster take quickly to their third head coach in a year? Has Oates been able to get his system down in a matter of a single week in the accelerated training camp? We'll find out soon enough. The Caps have revamped their power play under Oates, which may not bode well for the Lightning if they start taking careless penalties.

Oates said that 23 year old Braden Holtby will likely start in net tonight against the Lightning. Holtby was a star during the Caps playoff run last spring, and he's continued playing well during his AHL stint during the 2012 lockout (2.14 GAA and .932 save percentage).

And for the Lightning? Anders Lindback is the first goalie off the ice at the morning skate, which means he makes his Lightning debut. Lindback, 24, was acquired over the 2012 offseason from the Nashville Predators for several draft selections and Goalie Sebastian Caron (Caron was an emergency signing after Mathieu Garon's groin injury, coming over from Europe to play. He had no intentions on returning to the NHL and is back playing goal in Germany). It's one mighty opening test for Lindy, to go against Alex Ovechkin and the Caps, but every game is a test of growth, poise, mettle and resolve.

Brooks Laich is out for Washington tonight, being felled by groin issues. Groin injuries may be an epidemic through the league... It's just a sign that some guys aren't in game shape.

Cory Conacher makes his NHL debut tonight, likely still playing on the left wing of Vincent Lecavalier. Conacher, who some Lightning fans haven't seen play before, has a feisty side much like former Bolt Steve Downie, but he's not an agitator... He's much more like Martin St. Louis but less willing to take shit from people.

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