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Tampa Bay Lightning at Washington Capitals Preview and Game Day Thread

A lone road game in the middle of long homestand

Washington Capitals v Tampa Bay Lightning Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Tampa Bay Lightning at Washington Capitals: GAME#14

Time: 7:00 pm Eastern Time

Location: Capitals One Arena

Broadcast/Streaming: NHLN, SNE, SNW, SNP, NBCSWA

Opponent SBNation Site: Japers Rink

DraftKings Line: Lightning -1.5 O/U 6.5

After their longest homestand of the season so far, the Tampa Bay Lightning are hitting the road for the first time in November, going to D.C. to meet the Washington Capitals tonight. That won’t be a long trip though as the Lightning will be back already on Sunday to face the Capitals again.

Couple of weeks ago we talked a lot about the Lightning’s issues at 5v5. The team were fueled by their power play unit and especially by their captain Steven Stamkos, who started the season with seven goals in five games, including five on power play. The situation at even strength was, however, completely different as the Lightning were extremely unlucky and just couldn’t simply get the puck into the opposite net. As it usually happens, the shooting percentage bounced back and the Lightning’s numbers have improved a lot. According to Evolving-Hockey, over the last two weeks the Bolts have been comfortably in top-10 in the whole league with 3.21 goals for per 60 minutes, while generating 2.87 xGF/60. According to Moneypuck.com, the Lightning’s two top lines are also top-10 in the NHL amongst the lines, who played at least 80 minutes together this season.

Meanwhile, the power play conversion rate have dropped to the 16th place in the league and the Lightning went just 4-for-20 over the last four games. It hurt especially in the last game against the Edmonton Oilers, where the Lightning went 0-for-5 and lost the game just by one goal, while the opponent scored two of their goals on power play. The Lightning also allowed three shorthanded goals over the last four games.

Not a surprise that the Lightning’s coaching staff have tried to shuffle their power play units recently, swapping Mikhail Sergachev and Victor Hedman, moving Brandon Hagel to the first unit and getting Vlad Namestnikov back on second unit. Those power play units remained the same on the latest practice and will likely play against the Capitals tonight.

The battle of special units could be a key moment in tonight’s game. The Capitals are in the bottom half of the league at most of their underlying 5v5 stats, but as usual they are quite strong on power play. In the previous game against the Pittsburgh Penguins they went also scoreless with man advantage, but scored four power play goals against the Oilers earlier this week. Alex Ovechkin might be 37-year-olds already, but still can score goals and his eight goals this season is more than any of the Lightning players have this season.

By some early indications, the Capitals will have a tough time to make the playoffs this season. Several of their players are currently out with different injuries: Nicklas Backstrom, Carl Hagelin and Tom Wilson have been missing long before the regular season started, on top that they lost T.J. Oshie, who was dealing with injuries the previous season too, John Carlson and Dmitry Orlov have also missed the latest game and it’s not clear if they will be ready for tonight’s game too.

To fill some gaps in their rosters, the Capitals signed Dylan Strome in the offseason, who is now the second best player on their team with 12 points in 15 games. They also signed forward Sonny Milano in the offseason and recently picked up forward Nicolas Aube-Kubel off waivers from the Toronto Maple Leafs. Darcy Kuemper is a new starting goalie for Washington and has been solid so far for his new team, recording 4.37 GSAx in all situations.

The Capitals enter tonight with five losses over their six latest games. Other than on Monday, where they exploded with four power play against goals against Edmonton, Washington didn’t score more than two goals per game over that span.

Tampa Bay vs. Washington Comparison

Game # 14 Tampa Bay Lightning Washington Capitals
Game # 14 Tampa Bay Lightning Washington Capitals
Overall Record 7-5-1 6-7-2
Home Record 3-2-1 4-3-1
Road Record 4-3-0 2-4-1
Goals For 42 41
Goals Against 40 45
xGF 43 41.53
xGA 44.1 49.26
PP% 22.2% 25%
PK% 78.7% 82.2%

Tampa Bay Lightning Expected Lines

Forward Lines

Brandon Hagel - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov

Alex Killorn - Nick Paul - Steven Stamkos

Ross Colton - Vladislav Namestnikov - Cole Koepke

Pat Maroon - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Corey Perry

Defense Pairings

Victor Hedman - Erik Cernak

Mikhail Sergachev - Nick Perbix

Haydn Fleury - Cal Foote

Goaltenders

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Brian Elliott

Washington Capitals Expected Lines

Forward Lines

Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Conor Sheary

Sonny Milano - Dylan Strome - Marcus Johansson

Anthony Mantha - Lars Eller - Nicolas Aube-Kubel

Aliaksei Protas - Nic Dowd - Garnet Hathaway

Defense Pairings

Martin Fehervary - Nick Jensen

Erik Gustafsson - Trevor van Riemsdyk

Alex Alexeyev - Matt Irwin

Goaltenders

Darcy Kuemper

Charlie Lindgren