The Hurricanes have officially completed their annual State Fair road trip, but things don’t get any easier tonight. The red hot Tampa Bay Lightning are rolling into town, bringing their high-octane offensive attack in tow. At 7-1-1, the Bolts are out to an early lead alone atop the NHL standings.
As such, tonight will be a huge test of Carolina’s mettle, as this is the type of game the ‘Canes will have to be at least competitive in to earn their spot as a playoff team in this conference.
Goaltender Scott Darling appears to have earned the trust of the coaching stuff, as he’s being given the nod despite a rough go of things in Dallas on Saturday night. That’s a key step for Darling, as that’s the type of trust that previous non-Cam Ward goalies have never been shown in the Peters era.
Here’s the look we expect the Hurricanes to go with tonight:
Sebastian Aho - Jordan Staal - Elias Lindholm
Brock McGinn - Victor Rask - Teuvo Teravainen
Jeff Skinner - Derek Ryan - Justin Williams
Joakim Nordstrom - Marcus Kruger - Josh Jooris
Jaccob Slavin - Brett Pesce
Noah Hanifin - Justin Faulk
Haydn Fleury - Trevor van Riemsdyk
As for the Tampa Bay side of things, their top line has been outstanding so far. Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov are first and second in the NHL with 18 and 16 points, respectively. They also have opened the season on nine game point streaks. For the ‘Canes to come out on top tonight, they’ll have to aim to bring those streaks to an end. Look for the Staal line and the Slavin/Pesce pairing to be hard-matched against that group.
This is a pretty deep group at forward, and it’s even an improved defense from the one that closed out last season for the Lightning. J.T. Brown will draw back into the lineup in the town his Dad made a name for himself in after being a healthy scratch following his demonstration during the national anthem earlier in the season. Another guy to keep an eye on up front is Brayden Point. The shifty, diminutive center has blossomed into a prolific point producer of late.
As he has in what will now be nine out of ten games to start the season, Andrei Vasilevskiy will have the nod in net for Tampa.
Here’s what you can expect to see from the Bolts:
Vladislav Namestnikov - Steven Stamkos - Nikita Kucherov
Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point - Yanni Gourde
Alex Killorn - Tyler Johnson - Gabriel Dumont
Chris Kunitz - J.T. Brown - Ryan Callahan
Victor Hedman - Jake Dotchin
Mikhail Sergachev - Anton Stralman
Braydon Coburn - Dan Girardi