Season Series: It’s the third of six meetings on the year between the Southeast Division rivals. The clubs split each of the first two matches, with Tampa Bay taking the season-opener back on Oct. 7 only to have Carolina avenge the loss with a 4-2 victory at home nearly two months ago to the day.
The Big Story: The Lightning look to complete a sweep of their three-game home stand and extend their modest two-game win streak to three, which would also provide the club with momentum as it departs for a three-game road trip next week. Tampa Bay, winners in four of the past six, also seeks to gain separation in the standings from Carolina, as a Hurricanes win would bring them to within one point of matching the Bolts’ point total, whereas a Lightning win would continue to help Tampa Bay climb up the standings closer to the eighth and final playoff spot.
Marc-Andre Bergeron tied the game at three to bring Tampa Bay back from down two goals, and Vincent Lecavalier followed with the game-winner in the third period after taking a pass from JT Wyman, who also scored his first NHL career goal in the game. Steven Stamkos opened the scoring with his league-leading 23rd goal of the season and Mathieu Garon made 31 saves in his 300th career game to help improve the Lightning’s home record to 10-5-0 on the season.HURRICANES – Carolina visits Tampa Bay for a brief one-game stint before returning home to the RBC Center for the New Year. The NHL schedule has been kind to Carolina as of late, as Saturday’s game at the St. Pete Times Forum marks just the second in the team’s past six games to be played on the road, where it posts an ugly 4-10-4 record. On Thursday, the home locale favored Carolina, helping it to a 4-3 win over Toronto in overtime. Down 3-1 in the third period, Eric Staal scored on a breakaway to bring his team to within one just two minutes before Zac Dalpe tied it to send the contest into the extra session. Staal went on to add the game-winner in the fourth period to give Carolina its third win in its past four games.
Who’s Hot: Steven Stamkos’ goal on Thursday put him in sole possession of first place in the NHL goal-scoring race with 23, while Martin St. Louis extended his point streak to four games since returning from injury. Steve Downie also comes in with four points in his past two games. For the Hurricanes, Tuomo Ruutu has five goals and two assists in his past seven games and Brandon Sutter has goals in two of his past three games.
Injury Report: LIGHTNING – Mattias Ohlund (knee, placed on Injured Reserve), Ryan Shannon (lower body, out 2-4 weeks), Nate Thompson (lower body, day-to-day) and Victor Hedman (upper body, day-to-day). HURRICANES – Brian Boucher (lower body, placed on Injured Reserve), Joni Pitkanen (concussion, out indefinitely), Jeff Skinner (concussion, out indefinitely) and Patrick Dwyer (upper body, day-to-day).
Notable Quotable: “It’s a good thing [to come back], but at the same time, we’re number one in the league for comebacks, which is a testament to the players’ character. But you’d like to be in a position to be in the lead once and a while before the third period. But hey, it’s extremely positive and we got nine points out of the last 12 points possible in the last six games. We’ve stepped it up and that’s also been done without some key guys.” – Lightning head coach Guy Boucher, on his team being able to come back and win despite missing key regulars from the lineup due to injury
Connections: The Hurricanes' third-leading scorer this season, Jussi Jokinen, had eight goals and 22 assists in 66 games with Tampa Bay during the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons.
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