His goals-against average of 4.03 the worst among NHL goaltenders with five or more appearances, but Braden Hotlby is expected to be back between the pipes tonight when the 4-8-1 Capitals visit the 6-5-1 Tampa Bay Lightning [7:30 p.m., CSN].
Holtby has allowed 26 goals in seven appearances this season, including five against the Florida Panthers Tuesday night, but he’s won two straight and has three of the Caps’ four wins this season.
Holtby was lit up for six goals in the Caps’ season-opening 6-3 loss to the Lightning in Tampa back on Jan. 19.
Adam Oates’ decision to come back with Holtby after he allowed five goals to the Panthers is a strong show of faith in the 23-year-old netminder, especially when you consider Michal Neuvirth owns a better GAA [3.05] and a higher save percentage [.889 to Holtby’s .874].
Lightning starting goalie Anders Lindback is ill, so coach Guy Boucher is expected to turn to Mathieu Garon [1-2-0, 2.84, .918].
Historically speaking: The Lightning have won six straight home games against the Caps, dating back to their four-game sweep in the 2011 playoffs.
Loose Bolts: After sprinting out to a 6-1-0 start and scoring 37 goals in their first seven games, the Lightning have gone 0-4-1 in their last five and have scored just nine goals.
Caps team leaders: Troy Brouwer leads the Capitals in goals with six, followed by Mike Ribeiro, Alex Ovechkin and Joel Ward with five each. Ribeiro leads the club in assists  and points . Ovechkin, Ward and Nicklas Backstrom are next with 10 points each. Ovechkin leads the Caps with 52 shots, which ranks sixth in the NHL. Brouwer leads the Caps in hits with 32, followed by Jason Chimera , John Erskine , Ovechkin  and Matt Hendricks . John Carlson leads the Caps with 35 blocked shots.
Lightning team leaders: Steven Stamkos leads Tampa in goals  and is tied with Marty St. Louis [team-high 14 assists] with 17 points. Victor Hedman and Sami Salo are a team-best plus-10. Defenseman Matt Carle is averaging a team-high 23:18 in ice time this season and he’ll get a steady diet of Ovechkin. Captian Vinny Lecavalier leads all Lightning in hits this season with 33, followed by defenseman Keith Aulie with 28. Hedman has bocked a team-high 26 shots.
Alaskan Crabb legs: Three players on the ice tonight hail from Anchorage, Alaska -- Lightning teammates Matt Carle and Nate Thompson and Capitals forward Joey Crabb.
Chasing milestones: Defenseman John Carlson will be playing in his 200th career NHL game tonight, making him just the 11th player from his 2008 draft class to have skated in 200 or more NHL games. Mike Ribeiro is just one assist shy of 400 career NHL assists, which would make him one of just 32 active players to have reached the 400-assist plateau. Eric Fehr, riding a two-game point streak, is just one point shy of 100 points in his career
Here are the projected forward lines and defense pairings for the Caps:
Jason Chimera - Mike Ribeiro - Alex Ovechkin
Wojtek Wolski - Nicklas Backstrom - Troy Brouwer
Eric Fehr - Mathieu Perreault - Joel Ward
Matt Hendricks - Jay Beagle - Joey Crabb
Karl Alzner - Mike Green
John Erskine - John Carlson
Jeff Schultz - Tomas Kundratek