Pre-game primer: Caps go for third straight

Pre-game primer: Caps go for third straight
December 10, 2013, 5:30 pm
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News and notes as the Capitals [16-12-2, 34 points] prepare to take on the Tampa Bay Lightning [17-10-2, 36 points] at Verizon Center [7 p.m., CSN]:

Trending: The Caps have won two in a row by a combined score of 9-3 and have won four of their last five. The Lightning have lost three of their last four and are 5-5-2 since Steven Stamkos broke his leg. The Lightning have allowed just four goals in their last three games. The Caps have won three straight against the Lightning and are 6-3-1 in their last 10 meetings with Tampa.

Goalie matchups: Braden Holtby [13-9-1, 2.71, .923] is expected to face Ben Bishop [15-5-1, 1.98, .934]. Holtby has a career mark of 3-1-0 with a 3.68 GAA nd .888 SP against Tampa. Bishop is 0-2-0 with a 4.41 GAA and .884 SP. He has stopped 157 of the last 162 shots he’s faced.

Why Holtby? Caps coach Adam Oates gave his reasoning for starting Holtby over rookie Philipp Grubauer, who earned his first victory Sunday night in New York. “Gruby gave us a great game. The tam played great in front of him. He gave us the spark we were looking for. Holts won the night before. Like I said, he can’t play 80 in a row, right?”

[RELATED: Neuvirth returns to practice]

Fast starts: The Lightning are 13-1-0 when scoring first and 4-9-2 when opponents strike first. The Caps are 10-0-2 when leading after two periods. The Bolts are 12-1-0. The Caps are 6-2 in shootouts, thanks to Nicklas Backstrom going 4-for-6; the Lightning are 3-0, thanks to Valteri Filpulla going 3-for-3.

Special night: The Caps are ranked fifth in the NHL on the power play [22.8 percent]; the Lightning are ranked 21st [15.8 percent]. The Caps rank 13th in penalty killing [83.6 percent]; the Lightning rank eighth [85.1 percent].

5-on-5: The Lightning have outscored opponents 5-on-5 by a 51-45 margin. The Caps have been outscored 5-on-5 by a 57-55 count.

Remember me? Caps head coach Adam Oates and Tampa assistant Steve “Stumpy” Thomas grew up together in Toronto and were junior teammates. Both went undrafted as 18-year-olds, but went on to play more than 1,000 NHL games. “We have a couple good stories, yeah,” Oates said with a grin.

Milestones: Caps defenseman Mike Green is one assist away from passing Steve Konowalchuk [196] for 20th place on the Caps’ all-time list. Center Nicklas Backstrom is one power-play assist away from passing Michal Pivonka [138] for fourth on the club’s all-time list.

Etcetera: Center Mikhail Grabovski has six points in his last seven games. Defenseman John Carlson has led the Caps in ice time in 10 of the last 11 games. Seven of the Lightning players expected to play tonight have less than 50 games of NHL experience. Tampa center Valteri Filpulla’s 10 goals this season are one more than he cored last season. Bolts defenseman Matt Carle leads the club with 64 blocked shots.