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GAME: Carolina Hurricanes (52-21-7) at Tampa Bay Lightning (42-32-6).
TIME: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. EDT.
The Carolina Hurricanes look to move into sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference when they complete a home-and-home series with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Carolina and Ottawa are tied for the East lead with 111 points. If the Hurricanes win their final two games, they will clinch the No. 1 seed in the postseason.
"We will have to be all business, because Tampa's back is against the wall," Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette said. "They'll be trouble to get a point, so it should be a great hockey game."
After this game, the Hurricanes end the season at home on Tuesday against Buffalo. The Senators play road games at Toronto on Saturday and the New York Rangers on Tuesday.
"If you would have told us at the beginning of the season that if we win our last two games, we'd have the conference championship, a lot of people would have laughed," said Matt Cullen, who scored the lone goal in a shootout on Friday to give Carolina a 5-4 win. "We're happy, we're in a good position."
Despite the loss, Tampa Bay kept its playoff hopes alive.
"The way we played, how hard we played, if we came out of here empty, it would be tough to get on that plane," said Martin St. Louis, who missed in the shootout to fall to 0-for-3 this season. "But we played hard and we earned that point."
The defending Stanley Cup champions have a three-point lead over Atlanta for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East. The Lightning will finish up the regular season on Tuesday against the Capitals - a team it has won five of seven games against by a combined 35-18 margin.
Atlanta's final three games are against non-playoff participants. The Thrashers are at home against Boston on Saturday, and will play road contests Monday at Washington and Tuesday at Florida.
Carolina goaltender Martin Gerber finished with 31 saves Friday en route to his 38th victory of the season, breaking Arturs Irbe's franchise record set five years ago.
Eric Staal, the 'Canes leading scorer, assisted on Doug Weight's goal that made it 4-4 midway through the third period. Staal has three goals and three assists during a five-game points streak.
Tampa Bay's Brad Richards has tallied a point in each game this season against the Hurricanes, recording three goals and nine assists.
STANDINGS: Hurricanes - 111 points, 1st place, Southeast Division. Lightning - 90 points, 2nd place, 21 PB, Southeast Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Hurricanes - Staal, 45 goals and 98 points; Staal and Cory Stillman, 54 assists; Mike Commodore, 136 PIM. Lightning - Vincent Lecavalier, 35 goals; Richards, 68 assists and 89 points; Pavel Kubina, 94 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Hurricanes - Power play: 18.3 percent (95 for 519), 12th (tied) in NHL. Penalty killing: 82.0 percent (355 for 433), 14th. Lightning - Power play: 16.7 percent (79 for 472), 23rd. Penalty killing: 81.3 percent (308 for 379), 20th.
GOALTENDERS: Hurricanes - Gerber (38-13-5, 3 SO, 2.76 GAA); Cam Ward (14-8-2, 0, 3.68). Lightning - Sean Burke (14-10-4, 2, 2.82); John Grahame (28-21-1, 5, 3.06).
SEASON SERIES: Lightning, 4-3.
LAST MEETING: Friday; Hurricanes, 5-4 (SO). At Raleigh, N.C., Cullen scored the lone shootout goal to lift Carolina into a first-place tie with Ottawa in the Eastern Conference.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Hurricanes - 21-14-5 on the road; Lightning - 24-13-2 at home.
|Apr 15 '06||CAR 2 at TBL 3 - OT|
|Apr 14 '06||TBL 4 at CAR 5 - SO|
|Mar 27 '06||TBL 1 at CAR 2|
|Feb 09 '06||CAR 3 at TBL 5|
|Dec 26 '05||CAR 4 at TBL 5 - OT|
|Dec 20 '05||TBL 4 at CAR 6|
|Nov 20 '05||TBL 5 at CAR 2|
|Oct 05 '05||CAR 2 at TBL 5|
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