Lightning (11-15-1, 23 Points) vs. Hurricanes (15-10-1, 31 Points)
TV/Radio: Sun Sports HD; AM 970 WFLA
It’s the third of five meetings on the year between the Southeast Division rivals. Tampa Bay took each of the first two contests, earning a 4-1 win on January 22 and following that up with an encore performance in a 5-2 victory back on February 23. The clubs will face off again twice more this season following Saturday’s action, on April 4 in Carolina and April 21 in Tampa Bay.
The Big Story:
The Lightning have dropped three of four and look to get back on the winning track. Fortunately, the Bolts have the NHL’s leading goal scorer in Steven Stamkos, whose goal on Tuesday night was the 199th of his career. He now needs just one more to become the fourth youngest player in NHL history to reach the 200-goal plateau for his career, at just 23 years old, 37 days.
LIGHTNING – Tampa Bay plays in the middle contest of a three-game homestand that wraps up Monday night at the Tampa Bay Times Forum with a game against the Philadelphia Flyers. After defeating the in-state rival Panthers on Tuesday night to get back on the winning track, the Bolts fell short of extending the win streak to a modest two games, as the team dropped a 2-0 contest to the Islanders at home on Thursday night. Still, Anders Lindback was fantastic in the defeat, making 27 saves on 28 shots, giving up his only goal to John Tavares while the other Islanders tally was deposited into an empty net. That Tampa Bay couldn’t muster any offense throughout the game was a rare occurrence, as Thursday’s contest marked the first time the Lightning were shutout since February 14, 2012, when they fell 4-0 to the Ottawa Senators.
HURRICANES – Carolina makes a stop in Tampa Bay for the first of a brief two-game road trip that also includes a trip up to the Big Apple to face the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. A hot streak as of late in which Carolina has won six of its past eight games has helped the team vault to the top of the Southeast Division standings. Entering Friday, the Hurricanes posted 31 points, which was just one better than second-place Winnipeg, who is coming on strong right behind them with 30 points. In order to gain some separation at the top and pull away at the pack, Carolina will have to avoid outings such as Thursday’s 3-2 loss to Washington, in which it blew a two-goal lead in the second period, then failed to score any more on the night, while the Capitals netted three goals to pull ahead and earn the win.
Lightning goaltender Anders Lindback has allowed no more than two goals in each of his past four starts for Tampa Bay, while Steven Stamkos has collected three goals and four points in his past four games. For the Hurricanes, captain Eric Staal has recorded points in three straight games, recording four points in that span, all assists.
HURRICANES – Cam Ward (Lower Body), Joni Pitkanen (Lower Body), Tuomo Ruutu (Hip) and Chad LaRose (Concussion).
Twitter Stat Pack:
The Lightning have scored six third period goals against the Hurricanes this season, including four in the last meetings. Mathieu Garon has started both games versus the Hurricanes and has posted a 2-0-0 record to go along with a 1.50 goals-against average and .957 save percentage. The Lightning have had six different rookies make their NHL debut this season (Conacher, Gudas, Johnson, Palat, Killorn and Panik). Martin St. Louis is four points shy of moving into the NHL's top-100 list for career points, as he is currently tied with Robert Goring with 888 career NHL points.
“We’ve had a lot of must-wins. Every day someone says that this next game is the most important game of the year. Two days ago someone said that game was the most important one of the year, so yeah, it is a must one, but they all are. This season is no different than an 82-game schedule. Every game is important.” – Lightning head coach Guy Boucher, commenting on the significance of Saturday’s game against Carolina
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