Hurricanes Record: 14-14-7 (35 pts.)
Lightning Record: 21-11-3 (45 pts.)
Fresh off a stinging 4-2 home loss at the hands of the Washington Capitals' power play, the Carolina Hurricanes travel to Tampa Bay to wrap up a back-to-back series tonight. The Lightning are coming off a 4-2 home win against the Nashville Predators Thursday night. This is the second time the Canes and Lightning have faced off this season; Tampa Bay won the first game in Raleigh in a 3-0 shutout on November 1.
Despite the loss of multiple players due to injuries, the most devastating of course being the loss of all star Steven Stamkos to a broken leg, the Lightning have been able to find a way to just keep winning. They enter tonight's game having won three straight and in a tie for second place in the Atlantic Division and third place in the Eastern Conference. 35 games into the season, they have won more games than they won in last year's 48-game season (18). They are opportunistic in winning close games, going 8-3 in overtime, 5-1 in shootouts, and 9-3-3 in one-goal games.
The Lightning are led by the ageless Martin St. Louis who has 33 points (14g, 19a) on the season, followed by Valtteri Filppula with 24 points (12g, 12a) and four points in his last three games. Both St. Louis and Filppula are averaging over a point-per-game when they face the Canes.
Victor Hedman rejoined the line-up Thursday night after missing six games with a lower body injury. There is a chance Tom Pyatt could return tonight; he has been out since breaking his collarbone on October 8.
The Lightning added additional grit and goaltender support in the form of Jean-Philippe Cote, a tough defenseman who was under a contract with the Syracuse Crunch and signed a two-year contract with the Lightning on Wednesday.
Ben Bishop is likely to get the start in net tonight. Bishop is tied for second in the league in wins (18) and has a 1.96 GAA and .934 save percentage, and in two previous starts against the Canes he's been perfect with two shutouts.
The Lightning are 13-3-1 at home.
The Canes aren't holding a morning skate today but Kirk Muller will have media availability around noon so we'll report any news that becomes available. Expect today's lineup to be mostly the same as was iced at last night's game. Kevin Westgarth, Mike Komisarek, and Ryan Murphy were all healthy scratches and any could see action tonight, most likely Murphy, and with the back-to-back scenario, Justin Peters could get the start in net over Cam Ward. Peters has only faced the Lightning three times in the past and has gone winless against them so far.
Jordan Staal was easily the best player on the ice last night for the Canes, scoring the first goal in the losing effort and bringing a very physical presence with six hits. Jordan has goals in three of his last six games and points in three of four. His new line mate Alexander Semin, who contributed the primary assist on Jordan's goal, has been a point-per-game career player against the Lightning. So has Eric Staal, who leads the team in points (28) and has 63 points in 59 career games versus the Lightning.
Depth chart coming out of last night's game:
Jeff Skinner - Eric Staal - Tuomo Ruutu
Nathan Gerbe - Jordan Staal - Alexander Semin
Jiri Tlusty - Riley Nash - Patrick Dwyer
Drayson Bowman - Manny Malhotra - Radek Dvorak/Kevin Westgarth
Andrej Sekera - Justin Faulk
Jay Harrison - Tim Gleason
Ron Hainsey - Brett Bellemore
Mike Komisarek - Ryan Murphy
We'll have the game thread open at 6:30 pm. See you there.