Preview: Capitals at Lightning
Washington can clinch playoff berth with win; Tampa Bay chasing wild-card spot
by Corey Long / NHL.com Correspondent
2:42 PM Share
CAPITALS (45-17-8) at LIGHTNING (34-27-9)
7 p.m. ET, SUN, CSN-DC, NHL.TV
Capitals team scope
The Washington Capitals can be the first team to clinch a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs if they defeat the Tampa Bay Lightning in any fashion. The Capitals are tied with the Columbus Blue Jackets for first place in the Metropolitan Division. "This is an absolutely must-win game," coach Barry Trotz said. "Our recent record has been unacceptable. What are they 12-3-3 in their last 18 games? That's a lot better than us." Washington is 1-4-1 in its past six games. Forward Andre Burakovsky will return to the lineup for the first time since Feb. 9 when he injured his hand blocking a shot against the Detroit Red Wings. "Obviously I've been out for five weeks or whatever so it's going to be a little bit new for me to come in and play," Burakovsky said Friday. "But I'm going to come back quick. I felt really good. I'm in good shape and ready to go."
Lightning team scope
The Lightning are one point behind the Toronto Maple Leafs for the second wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference. They may have avoided adding to their ever-growing injury list, with forward Ondrej Palat and defenseman Jake Dotchin each participating in an optional morning skate Saturday after missing practice Friday. "We'll see how they look in warmups," coach Jon Cooper said. "[But] it was encouraging this morning." Injured centers Tyler Johnson, Vladislav Namestnikov and Cedric Paquette will not play Saturday. Tampa Bay, which lost 5-0 to the Maple Leafs on Thursday, is 9-3-1 in its past 13 games. "We just have to move on from that," Dotchin said of the loss to Toronto. "[Washington] has a lot of skill guys, lot of speed guys, a bit of everything and we have to stir it up a bit to see where it takes us." The Lightning would like to get some secondary scoring; forward Alex Killorn has gone 16 games without a goal and forward Jonathan Drouin has gone 11 games without one.
Capitals projected lineup
Alex Ovechkin -- Nicklas Backstrom -- T.J. Oshie
Marcus Johansson -- Evgeny Kuznetsov -- Justin Williams
Brett Connolly -- Lars Eller -- Andre Burakovsky
Daniel Winnik -- Jay Beagle -- Tom Wilson
Karl Alzner -- John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov -- Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik -- Kevin Shattenkirk
Scratched: Nate Schmidt
Lightning projected lineup
Ondrej Palat -- Brayden Point -- Nikita Kucherov
Alex Killorn -- Yanni Gourde -- Jonathan Drouin
Gabriel Dumont -- Byron Froese -- Adam Erne
J.T. Brown -- Greg McKegg -- Luke Witkowski
Victor Hedman -- Jake Dotchin
Jason Garrison -- Anton Stralman
Braydon Coburn -- Andrej Sustr
Injured: Steven Stamkos (knee surgery), Ryan Callahan (hip), Tyler Johnson (lower body), Cedric Paquette (lower body), Vladislav Namestnikov (lower body)
The Lightning made an emergency call-up of forward Joel Vermin, but he will be sent back to Syracuse of the American Hockey League if Palat is in the lineup. ... Stamkos participated in a full practice with the Lightning on Friday. ... The Capitals sent forward Jakub Vrana to Hershey of the AHL to make room for Burakovsky.
Backstrom has four assists in the past three games. ... Kucherov has 20 points (10 goals, 10 assists) in the past 12 games. ... Hedman has 17 points (seven goals, 10 assists) in the past 15 games.