The Washington Capitals (32-28-6, 70 points) host the Tampa Bay Lightning (31-29-6, 68 points) in a “must-win” game. This is game five of a five game homestand for the Caps in which they’ve only mustered three points (1-2-1) so far.
“It’s a must-win for both teams,” Capitals Head Coach Dale Hunter said.
The Caps are two points behind the Winnipeg Jets for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East, but have one game in hand. The Caps are also four points behind the Florida Panthers for tops in the Southeast Division, but the Panthers have one game in hand on the Caps.
The Buffalo Sabres are back in the picture and have the same amount of points as the Caps, but have played one more game. Also the Tampa Bay Lightning are in the mix by being two points behind the Caps for ninth, have played the same number of games as the Caps, and the Lightning start a seven game homestand following tonight’s game.
“It’s a tight squeeze there for that last spot right now in the East,” Caps forward Matt Hendricks said on playing the Lightning tonight. “We’re going to do everything we can to beat them because we know they’re good at home.”
The Caps still have two of their next three games at home, but then embark on a very tough five game road trip.
The Caps will go with Tomas Vokoun (23-16-2, 2.52 GAA, .917 Save pct.) in net, who is making his first start since being pulled February 22nd in Ottawa, which was the second game in a row he was pulled in.
“I thought Nuevy [Michal Neuvirth] has played well,” Hunter said. “But he’s played a lot of games and Tomas is feeling great so I’ll go with him.”
The Caps held an optional morning skate today and Alex Ovechkin, Brooks Laich, Alexander Semin, Troy Brouwer, Jeff Halpern, Mike Green and Dennis Wideman all took their options and didn’t skate, but are ready to go for tonight. Jason Chimera was back on the ice today after taking a “maintenance day” yesterday.
Mike Knuble, Roman Hamrlik and John Erskine will likely be the healthy scratches. This will be Hamrlik’s eighth game in a row as a healthy scratch and for Knuble his ninth healthy scratch in the last 14 games.
“We got to get these wins and that’s the bottom line,” Caps forward Jason Chimera said.
Listen here to what Dale Hunter, Tomas Vokoun, Jason Chimera and Matt Hendricks had to say following the morning skate today.
Dale Hunter Morning Skate Audio
Tomas Vokoun Morning Skate Audio
Jason Chimera Morning Skate Audio
Matt Hendricks Morning Skate Audio