The Carolina Hurricanes (24-15-2, 50pts) have reached the midpoint of their season. The fifty points and twenty-four wins represent the second-best totals in franchise history through 41 games; only the Cup-winning 2005-06 team recorded a higher total in wins (27) and points (58).
The team is also at the midway mark of their current seven-game homestand. They’re 2-1 thus far, with four games to come in the next six days.
While the season statistics are cause for optimism — if not outright celebration — the coaching staff is likely focused on the recent troubles for the Canes’ defense. Over the last six games, the Canes have a goals-allowed-average of 4.33, way up from their season average of 2.83. A combination of poor penalty-killing, over-aggressive pinching, and downright bad luck have seen the Canes drop four of their last six games. An improved team effort on defense will certainly be the message from behind the bench.
Expect James Reimer to spell Petr Mrazek after three straight games for the Czech. After winning six out of seven starts from mid-November to mid-December, Reimer has given up eight goals on his last twenty-three shots faced. He’ll be looking to bounce back this afternoon and duplicate his excellent performance back on November 30th. In that game, Reimer made 34 saves on his way to a 3-2 victory over Tampa Bay.
Nino Niederreiter - Sebastian Aho - Teuvo Teravainen
Andrei Svechnikov - Jordan Staal - Warren Foegele
Ryan Dzingel - Erik Haula - Martin Necas
Brock McGinn - Lucas Wallmark - Jordan Martinook
Jaccob Slavin - Dougie Hamilton
Jake Gardiner - Brett Pesce
Joel Edmundson - Haydn Fleury
Injuries and Scratches: Trevor van Riemsdyk (healthy)
This afternoon’s opponent for the Canes is the Tampa Bay Lightning (23-13-4, 50pts). After starting the season slowly, the Lightning are now red-hot. They went 9-4-1 in December, and they’re currently on a six-game winning streak.
The usual suspects are at the top of the points list for the Lightning -- Nikita Kucherov (14g, 29a), Victor Hedman (9g, 30a), and Steven Stamkos (15g, 22a).
Andrei Vasilevskiy (18-9-2, .909 sv%, 2.83 gaa) gets the start for the Lightning.
Here’s how the Lightning will take the ice:
Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov
Alex Killorn - Anthony Cirelli - Steven Stamkos
Patrick Maroon - Cedric Paquette - Tyler Johnson
Carter Verhaeghe - Mitchell Stephens - Yanni Gourde
Victor Hedman - Braydon Coburn
Ryan McDonagh - Erik Cernak
Mikhail Sergachev - Kevin Shattenkirk
Injuries and Scratches: None