Erik Erlendsson covers the Tampa Bay Lightning for The Tampa Tribune.
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Lightning vs. Capitals, 5 things plus Guy Boucher talks about Dwayne Roloson
Posted Jan 4, 2011 by Erik Erlendsson
Updated Jan 4, 2011 at 03:00 PM
Big Battle the Big Phone Booth tonight, Lightning vs. Capitals - who would’ve thunk!!!!
Both teams have 51 points and are currently tied for first in the Southeast Division and the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference right now. Both teams are playing well, Tampa Bay 8-1-1 in the past 10 and Washington 5-0-1 in the past six. But the Capitals have owned Tampa Bay in the previous two meetings with a combined 12-3 score in a pair of Washington victories. But Tampa Bay is all but fully healthy heading into this one, with Simon Gagne in the lineup for the first time against Washington, Vinny Lecavalier back and playing well and Steve Downie making his return after missing the past month with a high ankle sprain. And now Dwayne Roloson joins the fold in goal.
Should make for some very entertaining hockey tonight. Or Washington could just as easily continue their home dominance and make it another laugher. We’ll see
But here are five things to watch!
1. Roloson will start in net, getting thrown right into the lineup after being acquired on Saturday, and flying from Calgary all day Sunday, practicing with the team on Monday and getting on another plane yesterday to fly here. Roloson skated for a brief time this morning during an optional skate, and will be wearing his Islanders pads and helmet. Perhaps he can continue his strong play against the Caps from when he was with the Islanders, taking a 2-1 loss earlier this season while posting a career 2.40 goals against average vs. the Capitals in 13 meetings. He’ll get a taste of things right away, so the team will get a good feel for his play.
2. Steve Downie returns after a month, and while he will no doubt be effective, his time will be limited and watched as he works his way back into game shape. Downie starts on a line with Dominic Moore and Teddy Purcell, so it will be third-line minutes to start while also getting time on the second power play unit. His presence starts to round out the lineup up front for Guy Boucher, who has all his tools in the toolbox at his disposal, which hasn’t been the case since the start of the season, and Downie is a big part of that.
3. Tampa Bay’s power play got a bit of a tweak during practice on Monday, with Vinny Lecavalier and Simon Gagne joining Marty St. Louis, Steven Stamkos and Brett Clark on the first unit. Lecavalier was working the right boards while Gagne was floating around the net. This looks like the power play unit from the start of the season, but we haven’t seen much of it lately. That’s a lot of fire power on one unit as the Lightning hope to counter the pressure the Capitals use on the penalty kill with it’s top skilled players. The second unit had Ryan Malone, Steve Downie, Teddy Purcell, Pavel Kubina and Victor Hedman/Mike Lundin
4. Both Dan Ellis and Mike Smith skated this morning, along with Roloson, but both said they understand the situation with three goalies usually doesn’t work out in the long term. Both Ellis and Smith said nothing is in their control other than how they work and perform, and each will most likely get another opportunity to perform. Smith said he knows he’ll get another shot at a start at some point when he returns from a knee sprain, and he did play well in the two starts before getting hurt. Ellis figures to get another chance, as well, and with back to back games twice on this road trip, you figure he’ll get another start or two. So to this point, there doesn’t appear to be any awkwardness with three guys in the room, but as Lightning coach Guy Boucher said, when Smith is healthy, “that’s a bridge we’ll cross when it comes up.’‘
5. Washington’s other Alex, right wing Alex Semin, has been the Lightning killer this season with six goals in two meetings, registering a hat trick in both games this season. So while Alex Ovechkin has been a thorn for some time now, Tampa Bay will have to keep Semin from lighting it up tonight and find ways to limit the quality scoring chances Washington is able to create with their passing skills and their defenseman joining the rush.