Minus Ovechkin, Capitals visit streaking Lightning

Washington's Alex Ovechkin was notably absent at All-Star game suspension tonight as his Capitals visit the Lightning at the Tampa Times Forum.

Ovechkin was selected to represent the Capitals at the All-Star Game in Ottawa, but the Russian superstar opted out of the NHL's midseason showcase. Ovechkin is suspended for delivering an illegal hit against Pittsburgh's Zbynek Michalek, but that sanction did not apply to the All-Star festivities.

With Ovechkin out, Capitals defenseman Dennis Wideman was his team's lone representative at the All-Star Game. Wideman posted an assist to help Team Chara record a 12-9 decision over Team Alfredsson at Scotiabank Place.

Washington, which is tied with Florida for first place in the Southeast, managed to win the first game of Ovechkin's suspension as the Caps headed into the All-Star break with last Tuesday's 5-3 victory over visiting Boston. Mathieu Perreault notched his first career hat trick to help the Caps halt a two-game slide.

In addition to not having Ovechkin tonight, Washington forward Nicklas Backstrom (concussion) and defenseman Mike Green (sports hernia) will also sit out again due to injuries.

Tampa, meanwhile, hopes to extend its season-best winning streak to five games tonight. The Lightning, who are nine points behind Washington, began January on an 0-6-1 slide before notching recent wins over Boston, Dallas, Phoenix and Columbus.

Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis each recorded a goal and an assist to lift Tampa to a 4-2 win last Tuesday against visiting Columbus. Lecavalier and St. Louis have been a big reason for the Lightning's recent hot stretch and both players enter tonight riding six-game point streaks.

Tampa's lone All-Star representative, Steven Stamkos, enter the break as the NHL's leader in goals with 32 and he has two goals during the Lightning's current winning streak.

Stamkos had one assist for the losing Team Alfredsson side in Sunday's All- Star Game. He also was stopped by Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard on a penalty shot.

"I think I ran out of moves," Stamkos said of his missed opportunity in the All-Star Game.

Tampa had nine injured players heading into the break and a few could return tonight. Forwards Ryan Malone (upper body), Ryan Shannon (knee), and Tom Pyatt (lower body) and defenseman Victor Hedman (concussion) are questionable for tonight's game.

Washington has won both meetings against the Lightning this season and has claimed four straight and seven of the last nine encounters in this series. The Caps have also won two in a row, three of four and 10 of their last 12 in Tampa.