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GAME: Tampa Bay Lightning (9-9-3) at Carolina Hurricanes (14-4-1).
TIME: Sunday, 7 p.m. EST.
The Tampa Bay Lightning hope the surprise return of Martin St. Louis can help them shake an early-season slump.
St. Louis looks to build off a game-winning goal in his first game back from injury as the Lightning visit the Southeast Division-leading Carolina Hurricanes.
St. Louis scored with 1:43 left in Tampa Bay's 3-2 win Thursday over the New York Islanders. St. Louis, the 2003-04 MVP, was in the Lightning lineup less than a week after breaking a bone near the tip of his left ring finger.
St. Louis, who sat out two games, was expected to miss two-to-four weeks.
"It was completely unexpected ... nobody knew," said goalie John Grahame, who made 34 saves. "But that's the type of player he is. He's got the biggest heart of anybody in the league, probably. Just having his presence out there really helped us."
St. Louis said that the finger still isn't completely healed.
"I think I'll be playing with that for a little while," he said. "It's just getting used to it."
St. Louis has gotten off to a slow start this season, with six goals and eight assists in 19 games. He had 38 goals and 94 points during the Lightning's 2003-04 Stanley Cup championship season.
The Lightning have won two of three since a six-game losing streak.
Vaclav Prospal, who leads the team with 13 goals and 17 assists, has 12 assists and 20 points during a 12-game point streak, one short of the team record shared by Brian Bradley and St. Louis.
The Hurricanes lost 4-3 Saturday to the New York Rangers, settling for a split in the home-and-home series. The loss was just the second in 13 games for Carolina, which is tied with the Montreal Canadiens for second place in the Eastern Conference, one point behind the Ottawa Senators.
Carolina, though, was shorthanded as Niclas Wallin (wrist), Rod Brind'Amour (groin), Glen Wesley (groin), and Josef Vasicek (knee) did not play. Erik Cole also sat out the third period after taking a shot in the foot.
"Guys showed up and played hard a couple of nights ago and guys showed up and played hard tonight," coach Peter Laviolette said. "It's frustrating and disappointing not to get a win."
Carolina has scored at least one power play goal in nine of 10 games.
STANDINGS (through Nov. 19): Lightning - 21 points, 2nd place, 8 PB, Southeast Division. Hurricanes - 29 points, 1st place, Southeast Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Lightning - Prospal, 13 goals, 17 assists and 30 points; Pavel Kubina, 38 PIM. Hurricanes - Eric Staal, 14 goals, 17 assists and 31 points; Jesse Boulerice, 45 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS (through Nov. 19): Lightning - Power play: 12.7 percent (17 for 133), 27th in NHL. Penalty killing: 83.9 percent (94 for 112), 11th. Hurricanes - Power play: 19.2 percent (24 for 125), 12th. Penalty killing: 80.1 percent (89 for 111), 24th (tied).
GOALTENDERS: Lightning - Grahame (7-8-1, 1 SO, 2.90 GAA); Sean Burke (2-0-2, 1.87). Hurricanes - Martin Gerber (9-3-0, 2, 2.13); Cam Ward (5-1-1, 3.60).
SEASON SERIES: Lightning, 1-0.
LAST MEETING: Oct. 5; Lightning, 5-2. At Tampa, Fla., Prospal had a goal and two assists in the season-opener for both teams.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Lightning - 4-5-2 on the road; Hurricanes - 8-1-0 at home.
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