Boyle and Ranger vs. Ovechkin
Lightning coach John Tortorella said he likely will put defensemen Dan Boyle and Paul Ranger on the ice to try to contain Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin, who entered Saturday leading he league with 48 goals and 17 power-play goals.
Why Boyle and Ranger? Because they are Tampa Bay's best defensive skaters.
"He's a different animal,'' Tortorella said of Ovechkin. "You're not going to stop him. You try to limit him and make sure you're just as physical on him as he is on you.''
"He's always just skating,'' Boyle said. "He just seems to always keep his legs going. With him skating forward and us skating backward, I like his chances. He's just the whole package.''
And he's rich, having signed a 13-year, $124-million contract, an NHL record. But to his credit, Ovechkin hasn't gotten lazy. In 16 games since signing that contract, he has 16 goals and 26 points.
"We'll have our hands full with him,'' defenseman Shane O'Brien said. "We just have to try to get a stick in his way as much as we can. I don't know how much you can shut him down. We just have to limit his chances.''
Personally, I love watching Ovechkin because he is so physical, and he also doesn't mind getting hit. Add the enthusiasm that everyone near him says is not faked and there is much to like. He also is the MVP so far, I think. No one else on the Capitals has more than 15 goals and their top goalie has a save percentage of .887. Yet, the team is two points off the division lead. Crappy division ... but still.
Other morning tidbits: Johna Holmqvist in goal tonight. ... Craig MacDonald has taken off his facemask for the first time since getting hit in the mouth with a puck, getting 50 stitches and losing nine teeth Dec. 20 against the Maple Leafs. ... Forward Andreas Karlsson, who missed two days for personal reasons, returned to the team. ... Have you noticed Marty St. Louis creeping up the stat sheet. He entered Saturday with 70 points, eighth in the league. ... There's a 40 or so second clip on YouTube of yesterday's brawl between Norfolk and Worcester. Goalie Jonathan Boutin decks Worcester goalie Thomas Greiss ... Despite St. Louis' stats, Tortorella said the production from the top line must get better. Vinny Lecavalier has just two goals in his past nine games and only 11 shots in his past five. "I'm not saying they're going to dominate every game, but I think they need to do more. This isn't a criticism. It's where are team is. I think they've played good, but I think we need them to be great more consistently,'' Torts said.