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Lightning (17-23-4, 38 Points) vs. Hurricanes (17-23-3, 37 Points)
Fox Sports Florida; AM 970 WFLA
This is the fifth and final meeting of the season between the two Southeast Division rivals. Tampa Bay has won each of the first four matches on the season, scoring at least four goals in each.
Tampa Bay plays at home for the first time since coming off a four-game road trip on which it picked up two of a possible eight points. The Lightning have a chance to complete the season series sweep tonight against Carolina, while the Hurricanes, completing the second half of a back-to-back set, will attempt to rebound from last night’s 5-3 loss to the Flyers and reverse a three-game losing streak.
LIGHTNING – Tampa Bay skates in the first of two home games before traveling to Boston on Thursday to make up an earlier game from this season that was postponed due to a snowstorm. The Lightning come into tonight’s game having lost five in a row, looking to snap their recent losing trend to finish the final few games of the regular season on a high note. The Bolts nearly reversed their fortune in their most recent contest on Thursday, but fell short in a 3-2 defeat to Montreal. Richard Panik had a goal to cut the deficit to one heading into the third period, and Vincent Lecavalier scored the tying goal early on in the final frame, but an inopportune goal from Brian Gionta with just 47 seconds remaining in regulation left the Lightning little time to mount another comeback, as Montreal escaped the close contest with a victory.
HURRICANES – Carolina skates into Tampa Bay for a quick one-gamer away from home, but returns back to PNC Arena for two in a row on Tuesday and Thursday, respectively. The Hurricanes are coming off a game just last night against the Flyers, a contest won by Philadelphia 5-3. Jeff Skinner and Justin Faulk each scored through the first 40 minutes, but nonetheless Carolina found itself down by a goal heading into the final frame. Eric Staal added a tally in the third after a goal by Philadelphia’s Wayne Simmonds to bring the Hurricanes back to within one again, but the Flyers pulled away on a late tally and never looked back.
Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman has three assists in his past four contests, while Matt Carle has recorded a point in seven of his past 11 games, notching a goal and eight assists during that stretch. Carolina’s Eric Staal has nine points in his past 10 games.
LIGHTNING – Tom Pyatt (Upper Body). HURRICANES – Cam Ward (Knee), Joni Pitkanen (Heel), Tim Brent (Lower Body) and Drayson Bowman (Upper Body).
Hurricanes goaltender Dan Ellis is a former member of the Lightning. Marc-Andre Bergeron was traded from Tampa Bay to Carolina earlier this month and will make his first return trip back to Tampa Bay, although in a Hurricanes sweater, since the deal.
The Lightning will be searching for the season series sweep of their division rivals tonight.
Tampa Bay has never swept the Hurricanes in a season series in their 20-year history, although the Bolts went undefeated against Carolina during the 2002-03 campaign (3-0-2).
Benoit Pouliot has recorded two goals, one assist and a +7 rating in three games against the Hurricanes.
Martin St. Louis has notched a goal and four assists over his past three games against Carolina.
The Lightning have scored at least two goals in a game in 16 of their past 17 games.
“Myself included, probably everyone on this team, we haven't played our best. We realize we have more to give, and that's a positive sign. Things are only going to get better, in our eyes.” – Lightning forward Steven Stamkos
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