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Last 10: Tampa Bay (5-4-1); Carolina (5-4-1)
Season Series: The Lightning look to even up this season’s series in the fourth of six matchups between the two Southeast Division rivals and also seek their first win in Raleigh in 2009-10. Carolina has won both matches at home this season at the RBC Center, including one in a shootout on Oct. 6. The other Carolina win came on Nov. 21. Tampa Bay picked up two points against the Canes on Oct. 10 at the St. Pete Times Forum and were led by Ryan Malone’s hat trick en route to a 5-2 victory. Malone has four points in three games against Carolina this season, all of them goals.
The Big Story: Ryan Malone’s four goals against the Hurricanes this season signifies just one mark of success Lightning players have had against their division rivals. Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis lead all scorers on both teams in points against the opposition. Lecavalier has 60 points in 63 career games against Carolina and St. Louis posts 54 points in 53 games. Lecavalier is one of three Tampa Bay forwards who enter tonight’s contest with an active three-game point streak. He is joined by Alex Tanguay and Jeff Halpern. Goaltender Antero Niittymaki also has had success against the Hurricanes, amassing a 6-2-2 all-time record with a 2.81 goals-against average.
LIGHTNING – The Bolts are seeking their first win tonight in the second game of a three-game swing before returning home to the St. Pete Times Forum on Jan. 21. Tampa Bay fell on Saturday to the Panthers 5-2 in Sunrise, getting goals from Alex Tanguay, who scored the 200th of his career, and Andrej Meszaros. Captain Vincent Lecavalier also tallied his 400th career assist in the contest. Antero Niittymaki made 13 of 18 stops before yielding to Dustin Tokarski, who made his NHL debut at the start of the third period after being recalled from Norfolk of the AHL on Thursday. Mike Smith is still nursing a cervical strain suffered on Jan. 12 against Washington, but Todd Fedoruk returned to the active roster today after being taken off Injured Reserve. The Lightning will travel north after the conclusion of tonight’s game to complete a back-to-back set with the Rangers tomorrow night at Madison Square Garden.
HURRICANES – Carolina wraps up a two-game home stand tonight that began on Saturday with a 5-3 loss to the Thrashers. Joni Pitkanen led all skaters with three assists in the contest and Eric Staal and Jussi Jokinen each added a pair of points. Carolina has won five of the last nine, but has dropped two in a row. The Hurricanes will try to avoid a three-game winless streak tonight at the RBC Center, but might have trouble considering they are just one of five NHL teams with a losing record at home (10-11-3). Furthermore, they have lost five of their last seven games in front of a home crowd.
Who’s Hot: Vincent Lecavalier has four assists and five points in his last three games and Alex Tanguay has a goal and three assists in his last three as well. Jeff Halpern has totaled three points in as many games and Martin St. Louis has amassed 17 points in his last 13.
- Carolina’s Brandon Sutter has recorded three points in his last four, including two assists, and Jiri Tlusty has three helpers, also in his last four.
Injury Report: LIGHTNING – Matt Smaby (upper body injury, placed on Injured Reserve retro-active to Jan. 12, day-to-day) and Mike Smith (cervical strain, day-to-day). HURRICANES – Tuomo Ruutu (upper body, week-to-week), Sergei Samsonov (upper body, day-to-day), Scott Walker (shoulder, placed on Injured Reserve), Chad LaRose (lower body, placed on Injured Reserve), Erik Cole (upper body) and Joe Corvo (leg, placed on Injured Reserve, out eight-to-twelve weeks).
Quotable: “Every team in the league is a good team and I think a lot of them are pretty close in the standings. On any given night anybody could win, but we have to come into every game with the same mindset and the same game plan. If we do that every time, I think we could really win a lot of games.” – Lightning defenseman Kurtis Foster
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