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NHL Preview from The Sports Network

Thursday, April 3rd (All times eastern)

Tampa Bay Lightning (31-40-9) at Washington Capitals (41-31-8), 7 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The Washington Capitals were rooting for the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday, but will try to defeat them tonight as the Caps host a Southeast Division test at the Verizon Center.

The Capitals tied Carolina for the Southeast Division lead by beating the Hurricanes on Tuesday and Tampa Bay had a chance to keep it that way when it visited Raleigh on Wednesday night.

However, the Hurricanes notched a 6-2 win over the Bolts and are once again two points in front of Washington for the division lead. Still, the Capitals have a chance to use their game in hand over Carolina this evening.

Washington could also move into the eighth seed in the playoff race tonight, as it is just one point behind idle Philadelphia for the final postseason berth in the East with two games left.

The Caps have won five straight and nine of their last 10 games and are coming off what could possibly be their biggest win in years.

Washington hosted the Hurricanes on Tuesday in the final regular-season meeting between the clubs this year. Alexander Ovechkin tied an NHL single- season record for left wingers with his 63rd goal of the season, and the Capitals tied Carolina for the Southeast Division with the 4-1 decision at the Verizon Center.

Matt Cooke, Brooks Laich and Alexander Semin also tallied for the Caps on Tuesday. Sergei Fedorov added a pair of assists, and Cristobal Huet made 21 saves to pick up the win.

Ovechkin tied Luc Robitaille, who scored 63 times with the Los Angeles Kings in 1992-93.

The Russian superstar is also nearing his first Art Ross and Rocket Richard trophies, which are awarded annually to the league's leader in points and goals, respectively.

Ovechkin is currently leading the NHL in points (110) and goals. He comes into tonight's action with four more points than Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin and 11 more goals than Ilya Kovalchuk of Atlanta.

The Capitals are closing out their season on a three-game homestand and are playing the middle test of that residency tonight before closing their regular season with Saturday's game against Florida.

Washington is 21-15-3 as the hosts this year and has won four straight and six of its last eight at home.

The Capitals have also had success playing against Tampa this season, as they've won five of the seven encounters between the clubs. Washington has taken six of the last nine meetings overall and three of four at the Verizon Center.

Chad LaRose registered his first career hat trick to lead the Hurricanes to the blowout win over the Lightning.

Martin St. Louis had a goal and an assist for the Lightning, losers of two straight and six of their last eight. Jeff Halpern also lit the lamp, while Vincent Lecavalier assisted on both of Tampa Bay's goals. Mike Smith allowed all six goals on 32 shots.

Tampa Bay is closing out its season on a three-game road trip and is playing the middle portion of that swing tonight. The Lightning are just 11-22-6 as the visiting team and has lost three straight and nine of their last 10 on the road.

04/03 10:41:59 ET

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