The Washington Times - October 10, 2011, 01:45PM

Asked following the season opener Saturday about the understated, no-frills lowering of the Capitals’ Southeast Division Champions banner, Bruce Boudreau agreed that it wasn’t the one he wanted – but he won’t criticize it, either.

“It’s great,” he said. “I hope we can raise that banner the next 10 years in a row.”

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It is with that intention that Boudreau looks at Monday night’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning as an important one. Not because the Lightning swept the Caps out of the second round of the playoffs last spring.

“It’s a new year. If there’s any motivation, it’s the fact that they’re in our division.” he said. “That’s where it is. I don’t put a lot of stock in the fact that they beat us, so we we want to beat them.”

Players are a little more willing to glance back at last year for that motivation. Defenseman Karl Alzner said Sunday that “all the guys want to beat them really bad.” Hardly bulletin-board material but a reminder that Boudreau hasn’t perfected “Men In Black” mind-erasing technology.

It’s “natural” to think about the Lightning as the team that eliminated the Caps, John Carlson said. But the focus is on this being Game 2 of a whole different journey.

“We’re just worried about a win. A win is big for us right now and that’s what we want,” Carlson said. “Whatever happened last year, obviously it’s in your head but even if it didn’t, we need this game.”

Goaltender Tomas Vokoun wasn’t even around when the Caps lost all four to Tampa Bay in April and May. But he’s not understating the importance of Monday night’s game – which will also be his Washington debut.

“I’m sure guys will remember that and certainly coaches do. It’s somewhat I think a statement game,” Vokoun said. “It’s second game of the season. It really only means two points, but on the other hand, you want to send a message back.”

Let’s not jump to conclusions, Boudreau cautioned.

“I think it’s way too early to call it that,” he said. “But Tomas, he’ll be into it then.”