Carolina Hurricanes vs Tampa Bay Lightning
April 3, 2013 - 7:00 pm EST
PNC Arena - Raleigh, NC
TV - FOX Sports Carolinas Radio - 99.9 The Fan
Tailgate forecast: Rain showers, High 51/ Low 41
SB Nation Lightning Blog: Raw Charge (twitter @RawCharge)
Hurricanes Record: 16-17-2 (34 pts, 3rd in the Southeast Division)
Lightning Record: 15-18-2 (32 pts, 4th in the Southeast Division)
Tonight the Hurricanes try to end one streak while starting another against their nemesis, the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Canes are 0-3 against the Lightning this season and have been outscored 13 to 4. Neither team is very hot, only combining for 3 wins in each of the teams past 6 games. But both could get into contention for the Southeast Division crown by stringing together a couple of wins. It's do or die for both teams tonight, let's see who comes out hungrier.
The Canes are a dejected group right now, all the way from management to the players. Jim Rutherford sounded frustrated about not being able to acquire any players yesterday to help the team out for a Playoff push and the players can't seem to buy a break on the ice. The Canes established a 2-0 lead against Washington on Tuesday night, but saw 5 of the Capitals next 9 shots find the back of the net. Not only did the lose the game, but also lost Joni Pitkanen for the remainder of the season.
A big issue for the Canes is getting some secondary scoring. This team is designed to score goals and has only notched 11 in their past 5 games. Of those 11 goals, 8 have come from the top line of Eric Staal, Alexander Semin and Jiri Tlusty; that over 72% from just one line. Of course the another issue has been defense. The Canes have allowed 20 goals in the same time span. Neither goalie looked particularly well on Tuesday night and neither goalie has a win in their careers versus Tampa Bay, so I'm not sure who goes tonight for Carolina. With the injury to Pitkanen and the trade of Jussi Jokinen, the lines and pairings might look a little different. If Brett Bellemore does get recalled, I wouldn't be surprised to see Carolina dress seven defensemen, maybe trying to limit ice time with their two top defensemen out with injuries.
On the injury front, Justin Faulk (knee) looks close to returning, Tuomo Ruutu (lower body) is still out, Cam Ward (knee) remains on IR and Joni Pitkanen (Foot) is done for the season.
The Lightning come to Raleigh having made one of the bigger "Deadline Day" deals. They attempted to address their goaltending need by adding Ben Bishop from the Ottawa Senators, but they gave up a significant piece to get him. Cory Conacher, Tampa's 4th leading scorer and Calder candidate (along with a 4th Round Pick), now belong to the Senators. Will Bishop get the start in net, it seems likely. Tampa new coach, Jon Cooper, will also be facing the Hurricanes for the first time.
The bottom line for the Hurricanes when facing the Lightning is matching or slowing down their skill players. Steven Stamkos leads the league in goals with 25 and has 20 points in 26 career games against Carolina. But the real thorn in the side for the Canes is Martin St. Louis. In 71 career games against the Canes, he has 35 goals and 78 points. If the Canes can shut those two players down, they might just have a chance of finally beating Tampa this season. The key for the Lightning is to put plenty of shots on goal and focus on shutting down the Canes top line.
The Lightning have a number of injuries with key personnel like Vincent Lecavalier (lower body), Ryan Malone (shoulder) and Anders Lindback (ankle) out. The also will be without their checking line center Nate Thompson due to suspension. For more information on the Lightning, please check out Raw Charge.