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LaRose and Samsonov Are Back: Lightning at Hurricanes, Game Day Preview

Chad LaRose and Sergei Samsonov will both return to the ice as the Carolina Hurricanes, (14-26-7) host the Tampa Bay Lightning, (18-19-10) tonight at the RBC.   LaRose missed 17 games because of a lower body injury, while Samsonov missed seven games due to an upper body concern.

Drayson Bowman was reassigned to Albany this morning and  Zach Boychuk was returned on Sunday.

Just when you thought the Canes might have turned a corner with a three game winning streak, they went back to their losing ways as they lost a tough game to Detroit last week Thursday, and laid an egg on their home ice against Atlanta on Saturday night.

Will the home team come out with some jump tonight?  The good news is that they have had success against Tampa and have won two of three games against their division foes so far this year.

The bad news is that the team is running out of time if they still plan on turning this abysmal season around.  While it would nearly take a miracle of Biblical proportions for the Canes to get back into the playoff mix at this time, it's still not mathematically impossible.  Many fans as well as the owner himself seemingly have all but given up hope for this season, but the players claim they have not. 

They can prove it tonight.

Cam Ward will be making his 16th consecutive start tonight and will be facing Antero Niittymaki. 

2009 - Cam Ward 32 1789 9 17 87 2.92 933 846 .907 0

2009 - Antero Niittymaki 22 1238 8 8 56 2.71 631 575 .911 0

The top two lines will not change from the previous few games, but expect coach Paul Maurice to mix in Samsonov and LaRose within the third and fourth lines as the game progresses.  In other words, the players who perform better will earn more minutes.

Tampa Bay has been very mediocre this season and has lost two in a row themselves.  Mike Smith is out hurt, so their backup in goal right now is Dustin Tokarski, who replaced Niittimaki on Saturday night when he was shellacked by Florida.

Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos, and Vincent Lecavalier all average about a point a game and lead the Lightning in scoring.  For more information about the Bolts, check out what Cassie and John have to say over at Raw Charge.

Don't forget, the first 10,000 fans in the door tonight receive Chad LaRose bobbleheads.

The game will be televised locally by FS Carolinas starting at 7.  As always, we will have the open game thread cranked up here at 6:30. 

(Again, sorry about the outage on Saturday night.  The thread was shut down for over an hour because of a major server problem, but hopefully those problems have been corrected).