Lightning (18-10-4, 40 Points) vs. Hurricanes (15-12-4, 34 Points)
Last 10: Tampa Bay (5-3-2); Carolina (6-2-2)
Season Series: Tonight is the first of six matchups between the two Southeast rivals. Tampa Bay earned victories in half of its games last season against the Hurricanes, while earning points in four of them.
The Big Story: Tampa Bay has won three in a row and is off to the best start in franchise history with 40 points through 32 games. A win in its last game, coupled with Washington’s eight-game losing streak, has rendered a three-team race in the Southeast Division which also includes Atlanta, who leads both the Lightning and Capitals by a single point in first place.
LIGHTNING – Tampa Bay has been hot recently, winning 10 of the last 15 and comes in with points in six straight at home as it concludes a three-game home stand tonight. Mike Smith continues to hold a confident presence and net, and it has showed with his play in his last two starts. Smith has allowed just two goals in as many starts and has led the Lightning to consecutive victories, while posting a 0.96 goals-against average in that span. The Lightning received a complete team effort in their last game, especially in the final 10 minutes of regulation to preserve a one-goal lead. Martin St. Louis added an empty-empty net goal to seal the victory after Steven Stamkos and Simon Gagne spotted the Bolts a 2-0 lead.
HURRICANES – Carolina plays its single road game tonight at the St. Pete Times Forum before traveling back home to kick off a two-game home stand. Much like the Lightning, the Hurricanes come in with a lot of momentum coming off a string of wins. Carolina has won each of its last four games, with three of those decided by just one goal. It knocked off Anaheim on Saturday, led by Eric Staal’s hat trick, which allowed the Canes to cruise to an easy 4-2 victory.
Who’s Hot: Tampa Bay’s Ryan Malone has 11 points, including seven assists, in his last nine games and Steven Stamkos has four goals in his last three. Randy Jones also has points in four of the last five for the Lightning. Carolina’s Eric Staal has four goals and five points in his last three contests and Jamie McBaine and Joni Pitkanen each have three points in as many games.
LIGHTNING – Steve Downie (ankle sprain, out indefinitely); HURRICANES – Jay Harrison (upper body, out indefinitely).
Notable Quotable: “I thought tonight we played solid. Our penalty kill was great, our power play scored, our goaltender played great. I’d love to be mad at something because I want the players to want more and make sure we don’t sit on what we do, but the reality is this was solid.” – Head Coach Guy Boucher, on a great win and total team effort Saturday versus Buffalo
tampabaylightning.com is the official Web site of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Tampa Bay Lightning and tampabaylightning.com are trademarks of Lightning Hockey L.P. NHL, the NHL Shield, the word mark and image of the Stanley Cup and NHL Conference logos are registered trademarks of the National Hockey League. All NHL logos and marks and NHL team logos and marks as well as all other proprietary materials depicted herein are the property of the NHL and the respective NHL teams and may not be reproduced without the prior written consent of NHL Enterprises, L.P. Copyright © 1999-2013 Lightning Hockey, L.P. and the National Hockey League. All Rights Reserved.