The Tampa Bay Lightning put the wraps on their three-game homestand tonight when the Carolina Hurricanes come to call at the St. Pete Times Forum for the final time this season.
This will be the sixth, and last, meeting between the Lightning and the Hurricanes this season with Tampa Bay posting a 0-3-2 record against them and a 0-1-1 record at home.
The Lightning have the opportunity to impose themselves into the Eastern Conference playoff situation by earning their first win this season against Carolina and making it that much tougher for the Hurricanes to climb into the eighth and final post-season position. Currently, Carolina, 34-27-5, has 73 points on the season; tied with Buffalo for the ninth spot and trailing the logjam of three teams knotted just ahead of them with 74 points.
Tampa Bay, who battled back from two goals down in the third period last night against the St. Louis Blues, is led in scoring by Martin St. Louis with 64 points. He earned a goal and an assist against the Blues. Vincent Lecavalier leads the team in goals with 27.
Interim head coach Rick Tocchet has indicated that rookie Mike McKenna, 3-3-1, would likely get the start in the net for Tampa Bay. In McKenna’s last start, March 1st in Calgary, he helped the Lightning upset the Flames, 8-6.
The Hurricanes arrive in Tampa riding a four-game win streak at the RBC Center in Raleigh. Before taking to the road they easily beat the Calgary Flames on Friday night, 6-1. In that game, Carolina points leader Ray Whitney scored three power play goals, including the 300th of his career in the third period.
Following tonight’s game, Tampa Bay heads out to visit Ottawa, Toronto and Sunrise, Fla., before returning home to the St. Pete Times Forum to open up the final four-game homestand of the season.