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Tampa Bay Lightning versus Washington Capitals gameday preview

WHERE: St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa, florida
MEDIA: Sun Sports TV (cable), 620 WDAE (radio)

The Olympic hiatus will begin on February 15th, but before then the Lightning will play a total of 17 games. 10 of which will be fought on home ice. It's a crucial stretch for a team that thinks it can make the playoffs, and a tough stretch that has it squaaring off agaisnt division foes as well as highly-ranked western conference opposition in Calgary and Vancouver.

But before we can get to those matchups that come later on in this stretch, the first step has to be taken and that is tonight against Southeast Division leader Washington, who are 6-4-0 in their last ten and sit near the top of the Eastern Conference as well as above-and-beyond attop te SE.

If games against Buffalo, Philadelphia and the resumed-half of the match-up against New Jersey (the game from Sunday) are any indication, Lightning fans may be in for a long night.

The current stretch of games -- the five game stretchs tarting the second half -- were goign to be tough, we knew that... But the Lightning have shot themselves in the foot twice during this three* game road trip. The Lightning gave up three goals in 2:11 in Buffalo, and spent the rest of the game playing catchup. It jumped out to a 3-0 lead in New Jersey before play was suspended, and then looked listless in the resumption of the game (the final may have been 4-2, but they lost the second half of the game, 2-1).

And then there was Philadelphia. That was a grand lackluster performance that complimented the two previous drubbings by the Flyers.

And now the high-flying Capitals, winners of their last three, come into town with now-Captain Alexander Ovechkin overseeing the squad.

Are we going to see another lackluster showing by the Lightning against high-caliber opposition, or are we going to see the Times Palace performance that has limited rivals to just 44 goals all season and has the leagues 7th best home penalty kill percentage (86.7%)?

The Capitals boast the #2 power play unit in the league, with a 23.8% conversion rate (and a 23.9% rate on the road). That's just a mite better than the Lightning's 17% conversion rate, and a 17.6% conversion rate at home.

At least they're consistent somewhere.

The Bolts do have an 80.8% penalty kill rate compared to the Capitals 80.4. As was stated above, the Lightning have given up a total of 44 goals in their 20 home dates this season. The Capitals are 28th in the league with their road penalty kill percentage (75.3%).

The Lightning have waived Blair Jones, who is likely being sent back to Norfolk. An after the Lightning waived Martins Karsums, it is expected that Karsums will be going to Europe to play... We'll keep you posted on player movement that and the lineup. Mike Smith is likely to start in net, he's been the go-to guy for the Lightning during the past month...

[Note by John Fontana, 01/12/10 2:09 PM EST ]Jones has been re-assigned to Norfolk.

Operation: Spare Change

Remember if you are attending tonight's game at the arena, Operation: Spare Change kicking off. The Lightning will be collecting donations for the Treats for Troops program. This will be ongoing for the remaining six home games at the St. Pete Times Forum this month. There are more details about this here.

Other Previews

Tampa Bay Lightning official team preview

Full game coverage on SB Nation

Japers Rink - Selected as the top Hockey blog by The Buzz Manager. Congratulations to Jon Press and crew!