Roloson, Bolts Set to Battle Caps for First

Newly-acquired goaltender Dwayne Roloson will get his first start in net tonight for the Tampa Bay Lightning, as they battle the Washington Capitals for the top spot in the Southeast Division. 

This is exactly the type of test that GM Steve Yzerman had in mind when he sent Ty Wishart to the New York Islanders in exchange for Roloson. 

In their two previous meetings with Washington this season, Tampa has been burned for six goals by the Capitals on both occasions. 

Dan Ellis started the November 11 contest at St. Pete Times Forum, stopping 20 of 25 Capitals’ shots in a 6-3 defeat.  In that game, Washington’s Alex Semin added an empty-netter in the closing seconds.

When the teams met on Black Friday at Verizon Center, it was all Caps in a 6-0 rout.  Mike Smith started the game but was yanked after yielding the fourth Washington marker midway through the contest.  Ellis came in for the final 31 minutes, allowing two goals on the 11 shots that he faced.

Yzerman and company will be watching closely as Roloson gets his chance to make a difference in this heated rivalry.

Tampa Bay comes into the game in first place in the division, and second overall in the Eastern Conference.  Washington has the same amount of points (51), but the Lightning get the nod by virtue of having played one less game than the Capitals.

The Lightning, 8-1-1 in their last 10, have a very solid 11-8-3 road record.  In preparation for their 12-game home stand that begins at the end of this month – which takes up nearly the entire month of February – 22 of their first 39 contests have been in opposition arenas.

The Caps seem to have worked out the issues faced during their December struggles, in which they lost eight straight contests.  Since that stretch, they have gone 5-0-1, including a big 3-1 victory over the Penguins at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh on New Years Day in the 2011 NHL Winter Classic. 

And Washington is tied with the St. Louis Blues for most home wins in the NHL, boasting a 14-4-4 mark at Verizon Center.  The venue is always packed, and their fans love to “Rock the Red”.

With Tampa scoring just three goals in their two games against the Capitals this season, Steven Stamkos (goal and an assist) and Martin St. Louis (two assists) are the only Lightning players to have more than one point.

Despite his team being outscored 12-3 in the games, defensemen Victor Hedman (33:24 of ice time) and Brett Clark (26:22) somehow managed to have be “even” in the plus / minus ratings.  Randy Jones has the dubious distinction of owning the worst  for any Tampa Bay skaters in the season series with the Caps at a -5, while Pavel Kubina and Mike Lundin each sport a -4. 

Stopping Semin has been the chief problem for the Bolts.  He has netted a hat trick in both games – including a natural hat trick on November 26 – and added two assists for an astronomical eight points.  Even though he has scored three power play goals, Semin has still been able to record a +5 rating.  He has simply been unstoppable.

Super scorer Alex Ovechkin has recorded just one goal in the season series but has still managed to pick up five points, and Nicklas Backstrom has picked up six assists.

Washington defenseman Tom Poti scored a goal in each of the previous meetings, but has been on injured reserve for a head injury that he sustained just prior to Christmas.

It should be a fantastic tilt, and the winner will have bragging rights as to first place in the Southeast. 

And Roloson may just have much to do with the outcome.

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Tags: Alex Ovechkin Alex Semin Dan Ellis Dwayne Roloson Eastern Conference Martin St Louis Mike Smith National Hockey League NHL Nicklas Backstrom Southeast Division Steve Yzerman Steven Stamkos Tampa Bay Lightning Ty WIshart Victor Hedman Washington Capitals

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