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Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Washington Capitals preview: The Bolts host the NHL’s best team

A matchup between the best shooter and the best goal scorer in modern hockey

Washington Capitals v Tampa Bay Lightning - Game Seven Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images

Tampa Bay Lightning vs Washington Capitals Game 31

Time: 7:00 pm Eastern Time

Location: Amalie Arena

Broadcast/Streaming: Fox Sports Sun, NBCSWA

Opponent SBNation Site: Japers Rink

Preview:

Despite playing a lot of home games this month, the Tampa Bay Lightning have faced a tough schedule. Over the last four days, the Bolts played against the New York Islanders, the division rival Florida Panthers, and the Boston Bruins, who are currently leading the Atlantic division. Their next opponent is the Washington Capitals, the team in first place in the standings in the entire NHL right now.

According to head coach Jon Cooper, Tyler Johnson still isn’t ready to play tonight, but hopefully will return to the lineup next week. Meanwhile, Braydon Coburn started practicing individually this week and joined the team for morning skate today but his expected date of return hasn’t been revealed yet.

Just a few players skated yesterday during an optional morning skate, including Mathieu Joseph, Carter Verhaeghe and Mitchell Stephens. All three players played less than ten minutes against the Bruins on Thursday night. After posting two confident wins in the last two games, the Bolts have no need to change the line combinations. Steven Stamkos fits perfectly on the Anthony Cirelli line and scored six goals in the last four games. The Paquette line has already established themselves as the one of the most substantial line combinations for the Lightning. The only change could be expected on the blue line, but it seems like Luke Schenn has fallen out of favor in the eyes of coaching staff and they prefer Jan Rutta over him.

Since the last meeting between these teams, the Caps have won five times in six games. Swedish forwards Nicklas Backstrom and Carl Hagelin recovered after missing several games due to injury, adding a lot of depth back to the team. After 33 games, the Caps are comfortably sitting in first place in the NHL with a pretty big advantage over their opponents.

While Steven Stamkos is heating up, posting a four-game scoring streak, another outstanding goal-scoring talent of the modern hockey era, Alex Ovechkin, has cooled a little bit. Ovechkin has just one goal in the last five games. However, that’s enough to stay third in the goalscoring race behind David Pastrnak and Jack Eichel.

If the Lightning win tonight, they have a chance to jump into third place in the Division for the first time since the first week of the season. But that would reeuire the Montreal Canadiens to lose, which is a pretty weak possibility given that the Habs are playing against the Red Wings.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Forward Lines

Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov

Alex Killorn - Anthony Cirelli - Steven Stamkos

Pat Maroon - Cedric Paquette - Yanni Gourde

Mitchell Stephens - Carter Verhaeghe - Mathieu Joseph

Tyler Johnson (injured)

Defense Pairings

Victor Hedman - Jan Rutta

Ryan McDonagh - Erik Cernak

Mikhail Sergachev - Kevin Shattenkirk

Luke Schenn (scratched), Braydon Coburn (injured),

Goaltenders

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Curtis McElhinney

Washington Capitals

Forward Lines

Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson

Jakub Vrana - Evgeny Kuznetsov - T.J. Oshie

Carl Hagelin - Lars Eller - Richard Panik

Brendan Leipsic - Nic Dowd - Garnet Hathaway

Defense Pairings

Michal Kempny - John Carlson

Dmitry Orlov - Nick Jensen

Jonas Siegenthaler - Radko Gudas

Goalies

Braden Holtby

Ilya Samsonov