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- The Canes and Bolts square off for the last time this season, and one would assume the Canes are glad to put this series behind them, having lost nine of their last ten against the Lightning including two 2-1 losses in Tampa in December. During that ten-game stretch, going back to the beginning of the 2012-13 season, the Lightning have out-scored the Canes 35-14. The Canes haven't beaten the Lightning in Raleigh since November 1, 2011.
- With the All-Star break marking the unofficial halfway point of the season (technically 46 games down and 36 to go), the Canes come into the second half of the season in 27th place (tied with the Arizona Coyotes), and have 37 points, or a 66-point pace.
- They rank in the top third of the league in their ability to play with defensive responsibility, with a penalty kill ranked fourth best (87.0%), shots against/game ranked seventh (27.8), penalty minutes per game ranked second (7.8), and a goals against/game ranking just outside the top ten at 11th (2.52). Though middle-of-the-pack in terms of possession (with even-strength Corsi ranked 14th at 51.3% and shots/game ranked 18th at 29.6), their ability to convert offense into goals is at the bottom of the league. The power play has dropped to 22nd (16.6%), even strength goals-for percentage is 28th (42.4%) and goals/game is next to last in the league (2.06).
- With a 6-2-1 January record and only three games remaining, the Canes will close out the month winning more than they lose, which is a step in the right direction. However, only four out of those nine games were against teams currently in the playoff chase, and the Canes went 1-2-1 against them. Seven out of the next ten games will be against playoff contenders.
- But hey, how about that fourth line? Brad Malone has points in his last three games, and Jay McClement and Patrick Dwyer, along with Victor Rask, have points in two straight.
- And how about that goaltending? Anton Khudobin has wins in his last five starts, including two in a row on the Canadian road trip that preceded the All-Star break. During that stretch he has given up seven total goals and has a save percentage of .950.
- Justin Faulk was a late arrival in Raleigh yesterday after completing his first full All-Star experience (he participated in the Skills competition as a rookie in 2012). He notched two assists for Team Toews, the winner in a 17-12 shooting match. If you missed it, you can find full coverage of Faulk's weekend at the All-Star Weekend blog on the Canes website.
- Bill Peters ran an uptempo, cardio-oriented practice yesterday at PNC Arena, with the primary purpose of getting players back up to game speed. With Faulk out but all others accounted for, Andrej Nestrasil served as Faulk's placeholder on defense, and Alexander Semin rotated in with the fourth line, and those two are the likely scratches again for tonight's game. Ryan Murphy is still on assignment to the Checkers as he wraps up his participation in the AHL All-Star Game (posting 3 assists and a +5 in a 14-12 Western Conference win), so John-Michael Liles will draw back in. A starting goaltender has not been announced.
- Tampa Bay hopes to pick up where they left off heading into the All-Star break, winners of their last three games and leading the Eastern Conference. They are ranked third overall in the league and seventh in the number of points-per-game accumulated, and they rank first in the league in total goals and goals per game.
- The Lightning sent three players to Columbus with All-Star honors. Rookie Jonathan Drouin was the fastest skater in the Skills competition. Steven Stamkos had a three-point game (2g, 1a) on Sunday for Team Foligno and leads the Lightning with 26 goals, good enough for fourth in the NHL. Tyler Johnson leads the Lightning in total points with 48, and has a team-best 31 assists. Johnson attended the All-Star events but was unable to play due to a lingering lower body injury. He is eligible to play tonight and participated in a full practice yesterday, but will be a game-time decision. On a side note, there's an pretty cool connection between Tyler Johnson and Bill Peters, who Johnson credits as the first person to tell him he could play in the NHL (read more here).
- The Lightning had already been without the services of Radko Gudas (knee surgery) on defense, but they received more bad news last week when Matt Carle suffered a torn adductor muscle and required surgery just prior to the All-Star break. Barring any trades, the Lightning will rotate in young defensemen Mark Barberio, Nikita Nesterov, and Luke Witkowski, who made his NHL debut on January 20th.
- Ben Bishop has started the last four games in net for the Lightning, and is tied for fourth in the NHL with 24 wins. He is 5-0-0 with a 1.19 GAA and two shutouts in his five prior appearances against the Canes.
- The Lightning practiced yesterday but were missing Stamkos and Drouin, so the projected line-ups are as the team skated in their last game prior to the break. Any additional updates on both teams will be forthcoming after the morning skates.
Hurricanes (from Monday's practice)
Injuries and Scratches:, Alexander Semin (healthy), Andrej Nestrasil (healthy)
Injuries and Scratches: Matt Carle (abdominal surgery), Radko Gudas (knee surgery). Mark Barberio (healthy), J.T. Brown (healthy)
There are 11 games on the schedule tonight, and this one makes the national broadcast, hence the later start time and station change. The Canes are back in black. Good seats are still available.