Last 10: Tampa Bay (2-7-1); Carolina (5-4-1)
Season Series: The Southeast Division rivals meet for the fifth of six meetings this season at the St. Pete Times Forum tonight. The Bolts and ‘Canes have split the first four games on the year, with Carolina winning two out of three in its home arena including the season-opener between the two clubs on Oct. 6. The Lightning look to remain undefeated at home tonight against the Hurricanes, whom they beat at the St. Pete Times Forum on Oct. 10 behind a hat trick from Ryan Malone.
The Big Story: Martin St. Louis will attempt to set a new career-high assist total with his 60th helper of the season tonight against the division rival Hurricanes. St. Louis, who is tied for third among the league’s assist leaders, previously set his current mark of 59 during the 2006-07 season. St. Louis tied his own personal best on Sunday by setting up a goal for Steven Stamkos, who ironically moved into a second-place tie with St. Louis on the franchise’s all-time list for most goals scored in a single season with his 43rd. A goal tonight, however, would give Stamkos sole possession of the second position and place him behind only Vincent Lecavalier, who had 52 goals three seasons ago. Like Stamkos, Steve Downie needs just one goal to join rare company, as just one of four players since the 1996-97 season to have scored 20 or more goals while also eclipsing the 200 penalty minutes mark.
LIGHTNING – Tampa Bay plays its last game of the month at the St. Pete Times Forum tonight, with the team traveling to Boston on Thursday to begin a four-game road trip. The Bolts are seeking their first win since Mar. 12, a span that since then has included five consecutive losses. Head Coach Rick Tocchet, however, has continued to praise his players for working hard, despite the misfortune. Steven Stamkos and Steve Downie both scored in the team’s last game on Sunday, a 5-2 loss at Florida, with Stamkos’ goal leaving him two off of the NHL lead of 45 as he continues to challenge Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby for the Rocket Richard title. The team also got closer to full strength over the weekend with Zenon Konopka and David Hale both returning to the lineup after missing time due to injuries.
HURRICANES – Carolina comes in for a brief one-game trip away from home before returning to the RBC Center on Thursday. The Hurricanes have won two out of the last three, with Sunday’s 5-3 loss to Buffalo preventing them from putting together their first three-game win streak in over a month. Carolina found itself down 4-0 to the Sabres before Sergei Samsonov, Brandon Sutter and Eric Staal found the back of the net. The team does come in with a chance to rebound, having won five of the last seven on the road.
Who’s Hot: Vincent Lecavalier has totaled seven goals in his previous 10 games and has three points in his past three contests. Steven Stamkos has 18 goals and 18 assists in his last 25 games and has 53 goals since Mar. 6, 2009. Martin St. Louis has also
recorded 10 assists and two goals in his last 11, while Steve Downie has amassed 16 points in his last 18 games.
- Carolina’s Jamie McBain is riding a four-game assist streak with as many helpers in that span and Eric Staal has four points in his last three, including two goals.
Injury Report: LIGHTNING – Ryan Malone (upper body, day-to-day) and Mattias Ohlund (lower body, day-to-day). HURRICANES – Alexandre Picard (upper body, week-to-week), Tim Gleason (foot, week-to-week) and Cam Ward (back, day-to-day).
Quotable: “We’re just not getting any bounces. We just don’t get any breaks, and when things go bad, they really go bad. It seems that every game there’s a certain time and point where we panic and fall apart.” – Lightning center Steven Stamkos, commenting on the team’s recent struggles
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