Hurricanes vs. Lightning: Game Day Preview

Brandon Sutter sails over goalie Mathieu Garon during overtime in a game between the Carolina Hurricanes and Tampa Bay Lightning on March 3, 2012 (author's photo).

A mere week ago today, the Carolina Hurricanes and Tampa Bay Lightning met in a controversial contest at the RBC Center. During overtime, on-ice officials saw Brandon Sutter run the goalie. Canes fans saw Steven Stamkos push Sutter into Mathieu Garon (with incidental contact), and they made their voices heard in the arena. Regardless, Sutter was first sent sailing over Garon's head, then sent to the box for roughing. Stamkos scored on the ensuing power play to earn first star accolades around the league, and the Canes found themselves (as has been the case far too many times this season) on the wrong end of an overtime decision.

Since then, the Hurricanes (25-27-15, 65 pts.) began a swing of five straight road games that resulted in yet two more overtime decisions, the first a 4-3 win against the Washington Capitals Tuesday night, followed by a 3-2 loss against the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday night.

Meanwhile, the Lightning (31-29-7, 69 pts.) have lost both games played since Saturday, a 7-3 drubbing by the Ottawa Senators at home on Tuesday night, followed by a 3-2 road overtime loss in Washington on Thursday. Perhaps more importantly, the Lightning lost Garon to a lower body injury in the Senators game, giving Dustin Tokarski (Norfolk Admirals) his first NHL debut this season in Thursday night's loss against the Capitals.

The teams meet in Tampa Bay tonight for the sixth and final time this season. News and notes follow.

Hurricanes News and Notes

Although the Hurricanes are in the middle of a five game road stand, they were able to return home from Buffalo for a rest day and practice yesterday at Raleigh Center Ice (I attended, photos here). The big news from Friday's practice was the return of Tuomo Ruutu, participating in a full practice with the team in contact gear. Ruutu practiced on a line with Staal and Tlusty and also manned the net for first unit power play drills. Provided there are no major issues (soreness, etc.) from yesterday's practice, he is expected to be back in the line-up tonight.

Young Canes continue to impress. Justin Faulk ranks first among NHL rookie defensemen in average time on ice (22:47), goals (8), and power play goals (5). He has four goals and seven points in his last 13 games. Jeff Skinner and Brandon Sutter both hit century mark NHL milestones this week. Sutter recorded his 100th (and 101st) career point Tuesday in Washington, and Skinner notched his 100th point with an assist Wednesday in Buffalo.

In other news, Tim Gleason and his wife Candice welcomed a new addition to their family, Grady Leo Gleason. Congratulations to the Gleason family!

The Canes did not skate this morning.

Projected lines are based on yesterday's practice and ch.com depth chart. Derek Joslin did take part in extra skating yesterday as practice was wrapping up, so it's possible he may be scratched tonight for either Bowman or Samson.

TBD: Drayson Bowman, Jerome Samson

Canes news links:

Lightning News and Notes

The Lightning still have their sights set on the playoffs. Despite two losses this week they are within spitting distance of the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference, three points behind Washington.

As previously mentioned, Dustin Tokarski was called up this week by the Lightning after Matheiu Garon suffered what is being reported as a minor groin tear in the game against the Senators Tuesday night. Tokarski performed well in the loss against the Capitals on Thursday, stopping 29 shots, despite reportedly suffering from pain due to dehydration that required treatment after the game. Tokarski was first off the ice at this morning's pre-game skate and he's expected to get the start in net tonight. (Side note: Tokarski shares a connection with Drayson Bowman, together they won a Memorial Cup in 2008 for the WHL Spokane Chiefs).

Filed under news we already knew, Steven Stamkos is a pretty darn good hockey player. Stamkos currently leads the league in goals and assists and is riding a 6-game point streak. Linemate Teddy Purcell is holding his own with a career-high 11-game point streak (7 goals, 15 assists).

19-year-old rookie forward Brett Connolly suffered an elbow to the head from Mike Green in Thursday's game against the Capitals. Connolly was initially stunned from the hit but was able to return to the game. Green was not penalized on the play. Yesterday the NHL reviewed the hit and suspended Green for three games.

Marc-Andre Bergeron underwent successful surgery on Thursday to repair a bulging disc in his back. He is expected to be out for the remainder of the season.

The Lightning did not practice on Friday. If there is new information following today's pre-game skate and media scrum I will post an update.

For up-to-date information about the Lightning follow our SB Nation affiliate Raw Charge.

The game will be broadcast tonight in HDTV on Fox Sports Carolinas and radio on WCMC 99.9 The Fan at 7:00 pm. We'll have the game thread open at 6:30 pm. See you there.

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