Tonight on NBCSN: Capitals and Lightning kick off the second half

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Now that the All-Star break is behind us, it’s time to get serious again and the Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning will kick it off right tonight in Tampa (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN). The Capitals are looking to stay strong in their hunt for the lead in the Southeast Division while the Lightning are looking to keep their win streak rolling along.

For the Capitals they’ll have to continue to make due without Alex Ovechkin who will be sitting out the second game of his three-game suspension. Apparently coach Dale Hunter wanted the Caps to get a little tougher and they’ve signed and called up noted AHL tough guy Joel Rechlicz. Hey, if you can’t score goals you might as well beat up the other team for trying to do the same thing.

The Caps head into tonight’s game losers of three of their last five games as they’ve been plagued by inconsistency. The Caps will hope that they can build off the 5-3 win over Boston they had just before the break. Whether it’s Tomas Vokoun or Michal Neuvirth in goal for Washington, they’ll need to grind it out without Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom on the ice.

Tampa Bay, on the other hand, has made a slow climb out of the Eastern Conference basement winning four in a row. That win streak coming off a seven-game losing streak is a prime example of why the Lightning are down in the dumps. While Dwayne Roloson and Mathieu Garon have been as bad as gets in goal, Steve Stamkos is as good as it gets.

Stamkos leads the NHL in goals and was winner of the breakaway challenge at the All-Star Skills Competition. As good as Stamkos has been, Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier have been just as strong.

Sadly for Tampa, that’s about all they’ve really got going offensively as Teddy Purcell and Ryan Malone have struggled.