Lightning - Hurricanes Preview
The Southeast Division rivals wrap up the six-game series set Saturday night at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. The Lightning have taken three of the first five meetings, including the most recent matchup just seven days ago at the RBC Center when Steven Stamkos
’ overtime winner propelled the Bolts to a 4-3 victory.
The Big Story:
Despite two straight losses, Tampa Bay is still right in the thick of things as far as the Eastern Conference playoff race goes. The Lightning sit just three points back of the division-rival Capitals, currently occupying the eighth and final postseason spot. A win by Tampa Bay, coupled with regulation losses by both Washington and Buffalo, also in action on Saturday, could, however, bring the Bolts to within just one point.
– Tampa Bay kicks off a seven-game home stand Saturday, its longest of the season, and won’t hit the road again until the end of the month. The schedule could bode well for the playoff-hungry Lightning, which post a 20-10-2 record at home. Even without starting goaltender Mathieu Garon
, currently out due to injury, the Bolts can rest assured that their playoff hopes will remain intact, as long as rookie goaltender Dustin Tokarski
’s showing on Thursday night was any indication. The 22-year-old net minder, called up from Norfolk of the AHL, made 29 saves and allowed just a single goal through 56 minutes, albeit the result didn’t quite accurately reflect what proved to be a solid performance in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Capitals. Defensive breakdowns and mental mistakes in its own zone led to Tampa Bay giving up the game-tying goal with just 3:58 left in regulation, before it yielded the overtime winner to Alex Ovechkin, whose goal helped Washington gain some breathing room in the Eastern Conference standings. The miscues in one end were certainly an anomaly from what occurred at the other for Tampa Bay, as Steven Stamkos
and Teddy Purcell
each factored into the scoring to extend a pair of individual point streaks to six and 11 games, respectively.
– Carolina visits Tampa Bay to compete in the third contest of its current five-game road trip. The Hurricanes have split the first pair of games, both winning and losing once each in overtime. The defeat came in the team’s most recent outing on Wednesday night in a 3-2 defeat to the Buffalo Sabres that went past regulation. Jaroslav Spacek put the Hurricanes out to a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes, but the team failed to hang on after allowing two goals in the second period that shifted the momentum in the Sabres’ favor. Chad LaRose got one of those goals back, but not the other, sending Carolina to its third loss in four games. In fact, if Carolina – seven points out of the final playoff spot in the East – has any hope of making a late postseason push, they’ll not only have to win, but do so in regulation as five of the team’s last seven games have gone into extra frames.
Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos
leads the NHL with 48 goals and is currently riding a six-game point streak with five goals in that span. Teddy Purcell
, meanwhile, is enjoying a career-high 11-game point streak with seven goals and 22 points over that stretch. For Carolina, Eric Staal has points in 12 of his past 13 games with 21 in that span.
– Mattias Ohlund
(knee, out for season, placed on Injured Reserve), Dana Tyrell
(knee, out for season, placed on Injured Reserve), Mathieu Garon
(torn groin muscle, out 3-4 weeks, placed on Injured Reserve), Vincent Lecavalier
(non-displaced hand fracture, out indefinitely) and Marc-Andre Bergeron
– Tuomo Ruutu (upper body)
“There’s no such thing as urgency for us anymore. There’s no word in the dictionary that we haven’t gone through this season to describe our situation. It’s life or death for us.” – Lightning Head Coach Guy Boucher, on the status of his team heading into the final month of the season
The Hurricanes' Jussi Jokinen had eight goals and 22 assists in 66 games with Tampa Bay during the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons. New Bolts defenseman Mike Commodore
also won a Stanley Cup with Carolina during the 2005-06 season.