All is quiet at Kettler Iceplex. The HBO cameras are gone now and much of the Washington media is finishing up business at Redskins Park today. But this morning the Caps went through their first practice since the emotional Winter Classic experience in Pittsburgh over the weekend. No time for a letdown, of course, with Tampa Bay coming into town Tuesday with first place in the Southeast Division on the line. The Lightning are 23-11-5 with 51 points. Washington is 23-12-5 with 51 points, but has smoked Tampa twice already – 6-3 on Veterans Day and 6-0 the day after Thanksgiving. Both games were at Verizon Center.
“All you can do is warn them and talk about it,” said Caps coach Bruce Boudreau. “Our opponent, in name only, should be enough to not have a hangover. We’re playing the team that’s tied with us and I think they’re 8--1 in their last  or something like that. So we have to play the best we can.”
Everyone was on the ice during the main practice save for forwards Matt Bradley (broken finger) and Boyd Gordon (right foot infection). Defenseman Tom Poti skated and said he is at least hopeful he can play tomorrow. Will need to be cleared, though, after taking a stick to the head during a Dec. 23 game against the Penguins. If he can’t go the Caps don’t play again until Saturday night as the schedule lightens this month. Forward D.J. King also practiced and with an open roster spot could come off injured reserve at any time. No guarantees there, of course. King has only played eight games this season and none since Dec. 6.
Minor injury during practice when goalie Michal Neuvirth had a teammate’s stick get inside his mask and do some damage. The cut required stitches and Neuvirth didn’t look happy as he stomped to the dressing room with team trainer Greg Smith right behind. Have no fear – Caps web producer Brett Leonhardt threw on his gear and jumped onto the ice for the final 20 minutes of practice. He was pulled out of the media room here at Kettler Iceplex mid-conversation by Sergey Kocharov, Washington’s director of media relations, at the request of the coaching staff. That’s a pretty intense way to start the day.
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