For quite some time, the Washington Capitals rolled through a laughable Southeast Division without breaking a sweat. That seemed to change last season, as the upstart Tampa Bay Lightning held the top spot during parts of 2010-11 until the Caps outlasted them.
Not surprisingly, Bolts head coach Guy Boucher wants to develop the Lightning into a fixture in the Southeast – and therefore, a thorn in the Capitals side. CSNWashington.com’s Chuck Gormley captured this juicy little bit of bulletin board material from Boucher.
“Last year we showed that we were the new kids on the block for them and they are used to being first,” Boucher told the Tampa Tribune. “We were kind of in their way as a thorn in their side and this year we are planning on being a thorn in both sides, hopefully.’’
That quote demands not one but two awful pop culture references. The first one is obvious (New Kids on the Block/Donnie Wahlberg jokes), while the second should revolve around the horrid hair metal ballad “Every Rose has its thorn.” At least, that’s the way I read that one …
Anyway, the Lightning have some pieces to be a thorn in at least one of the Capitals’ sides for the foreseeable future. Martin St. Louis still has plenty of life left in his game while Tampa Bay boasts young star Steven Stamkos and potential franchise blueliner Victor Hedman.
Still, the Lightning must prove they can stick around like the Caps have, even if they’ve already reached a higher peak in the postseason. The two teams will provide the first taste of how that rivalry will shake out on Versus tonight.
Damon Severson was a healthy scratch on Saturday.
It’s the last game he wants to miss this season.
“I had a good chat with a few people and just pretty much said, ‘I want to be in the next 80 games,’” Severson said, per The Record. “I sat out my game and that’s all I want to be out for for the year.”
Severson is one of the Devils’ most important young players. But this is also the 21-year-old defenseman’s sophomore season, and that’s when slumps can occur.
Hence, the early message he was sent by the coaching staff.
Severson is expected to be back in the lineup tonight when New Jersey hosts Nashville.
“He doesn’t have to be perfect,” coach John Hynes told reporters. “We’d just like to see him have a high compete level. We know he’s ready to go. We had a couple of good meetings with him. He’s in a good spot mentally. I know he’s ready to roll.”
Jake Virtanen, the sixth overall pick in the 2014 draft, will make his NHL debut tonight when his Canucks meet the Kings in Los Angeles.
The 19-year-old winger was a healthy scratch for Vancouver’s first three games of the regular season. He had two goals and two assists in six preseason games.
“I can’t wait,” he told reporters. “My energy is high. I want to get a couple of hits on my first shift.”
Big and physical with goal-scoring ability, the consensus is that Virtanen will remain in the NHL and not be returned to junior after he’s played nine games. That consensus could always change based on his play, of course.
The Canucks — who won last night in Anaheim — did not have a full skate this morning, so it’s unclear who will come out of the lineup. The best guess is rookie Jared McCann, who’s been playing third-line center.
If McCann does come out, the Canucks could move Brandon Sutter to third-line center and Virtanen could take Sutter’s spot on the first line with the Sedin twins. Or, there could be more extensive line juggling.