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Tampa Bay Lightning at Washington Capitals preview: Can the Bolts avoid a regular season sweep?

Nikita Kucherov can score his 500th career NHL point tonight.

NHL: DEC 14 Capitals at Lightning Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Tampa Bay Lightning vs Washington Capitals Game 34

Time: 7:00 pm Eastern Time

Location: Capital One Arena

Broadcast/Streaming: Fox Sports Sun, NHL Network

Opponent SBNation Site: Japers Rink

Preview:

The Tampa Bay Lightning are facing the Washington Capitals for the third time over the last three weeks. This is also the two teams’ last meeting during the 2019-20 season and the Lightning are still looking for their first victor over the Caps after losing the first two games. The Capitals also have the advantage of playing two of the three games at home.

The Lightning are coming into this game with an almost optimal roster: Braydon Coburn is still practicing in a regular jersey, although he’s still probably not ready for tonight’s game, and Mathieu Joseph played his first game of the season for the Syracuse Crunch while trying to get back on track and return to his last year’s from in the AHL.

Meanwhile, tonight’s game will be the second game in two days for the Washington Capitals. Last night, they defeated the New Jersey Devils, one of the worst teams in the league, so it’s probably the best chance for the Bolts to beat the tired Caps on the second leg of their back-to-back. Ilya Samsonov, who had a stellar game against the Lightning a week ago and basically earned a victory for his team, played last night against the Devils, which means that Braden Holtby will return to the net tonight.

It will also be interesting to see which goaltender will play in the opposite net. Andrei Vasilevskiy is clearly struggling so far this season and the last game didn’t add to his confidence, as he allowed four goals on 20 shots. The coaching staff should decide what is better for him: letting him play to get his confidence back or let him sit for a couple games to reset and think about what should be changed. Not an easy decision.

After being benched against the Ottawa Senators, Nikita Kucherov had a solid game against the Stars and avoided any big mistakes. Kucherov is currently sutting at 199 career goals and 299 career assists, which also means he’s two points away from his 500th career point.

After tonight’s game, the Lightning are coming back to Tampa, where they’ll spend the Christmas week. The three-game homestand will end on the 29th of December, after their game against the Detroit 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

Carter Verhaeghe - Tyler Johnson - Mitchell Stephens

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 - Travis Boyd - Garnet Hathaway

Defense Pairings

Michal Kempny - John Carlson

Dmitry Orlov - Nick Jensen

Jonas Siegenthaler - Radko Gudas

Goalies

Braden Holtby

Ilya Samsonov