Southeast showdown weekend commences; Bolts at Capitals preview

WHERE: Verizon Center, Washington, District of Columbia
MEDIA: Sun Sports (cable), Online audio streaming available

The Bolts are playing back-to-back this post-holiday weekend, starting tonight versus the Capitals in the capital, and then tomorrow back at TImes Palace against the Florida Panthers. Two critical games against two division opponents who put up six-goals each against the Lightning in our first meetings with them this season.

It's only been a matter of two weeks since the Bolts suffered a 6-3 loss against the Capitals in the same building where they play tonight. That loss was even more grim as Vinny Lecavalier went down with injury during the game.

But here the Lightning are now, playing their eighth game since that faithful night. The Bolts are 5-2 since that loss at Verizon Center. They are four points behind the Caps who are 3-2-2 since the teams last met two weeks ago. .And the Gr8 one, Alex Ovechkin, has not scored a goal in their past five.

Expect a Southeast Division slugfest tonight in DC.

How did the Bolts start their day off? Hockey. Ball hockey, to be precise... Right out in front of the White House.

Morning activation aside, the Bolts remain without Simon Gagne tonight who did not make the trip to Washington. At this point, seeing Simon has not played in game conditions since October, I have to wonder if a conditioning assignment to Norfolk is on the horizon for him? Yes, we want him back ASAP.... But it's important to get him playing time so he can come back, firing on all cylinders.

Special teams will be crucial this evening for both clubs: The Bolts and the Capitals sit 4th and (tied at) 5th in the league with their respective power play conversion rates. The Bolts are converting just slightly over 25% of their opportunities (25 goals on 99 power play chances), and the Capitals are scoring 22.9% of the time (19 goals on 83 chances). Ugly stat that needs mentioning: The Lightning have also given up 5 short-handed goals. That's the most in the NHL.

Short handed, it's a somewhat different story. The Lightning has the 4th rated penalty kill unit in the league (10 goals allowed on 88 opponent opportunities), and Washington comes in ranking 12th (16 goals in 97 short-handed situations).

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