TAMPA, Fla. | If you love or hate the idea of back-to-back games in the playoffs, thank the University of South Florida and its commencement ceremonies set for Thursday at St. Pete Times Forum.
There’s nothing the Washington Capitals or Tampa Bay Lightning can do about it, so they’re just managing the oddity of playing two straight nights even though it’s the playoffs.
“You save your legs and your energy for times like this,” Tampa Bay superstar Steven Stamkos said.
By the time Game 4 is over Wednesday night, the Lightning will have played 11 games in 22 days. The Caps like the idea of exploiting that.
“Obviously we want to be physical out there,” right wing Eric Fehr said. “It’s something we can maybe tire out some of their top lines or their top D-pairs. Just continue to make them skate for pucks - make them go the full ice if they want to get opportunities on goal.”
Of course, Fehr said, that’s the strategy against every team. The Caps admit they haven’t done enough of that so far in this series. Against the Rangers, they started getting more traffic in front of goalie Henrik Lundqvist as the series went along. It’s no coincidence they won in five.
Because his team is “short-staffed” thanks to injuries to Pavel Kubina and Simon Gagne, Lightning coach Guy Boucher has cut back on practice time to save energy. But there was no thought, he said, to resting 41-year-old goalie Dwayne Roloson, and perhaps Washington can take advantage of him being fatigued - even though he has been strong this series.
“I don’t know if age comes into play for him. He’s been great,” defenseman Mike Green said. “He’s been tough to beat here in this series, and you got to give him credit”
This is the 17th time in franchise history the Caps have played back-to-back games in the playoffs. Most recently, it was caused by a Yanni concert in Pittsburgh in 2009, and the Penguins won both.
Players said their approach doesn’t change because of scheduling, and they didn’t complain about Games 3 and 4 being so close together.
“It’s kind of nice ‘cause it gives you the chance to go right back out there the next night and keep the whole thing going,” defenseman Jeff Schultz said.
On the other side, the Lightning are getting plenty of rest. Boucher gave his team off Monday and told them to get away from the rink.
It has seemed to work so far, and Tampa Bay isn’t changing anything, either.
“I don’t think you have the luxury in the playoffs to just save yourself,” Lightning forward Marty St. Louis said. “I think you empty the tank and just see where you are the next day.”
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