Thursday will also be the home opener for the Canes, who will be playing their first game in PNC Arena since February of 2020. It won’t be a full Hurricanes’ squad though, as Carolina will come into the game missing Jaccob Slavin, Teuvo Teravainen, Jordan Martinook, Warren Foegele and Jesper Fast, who are all still on the COVID-19 protocol list.
The good news for Carolina in terms of personnel will be the return of captain Jordan Staal, who played in the Canes’ season opener but missed the following two games on the COVID list.
There will be a few guys off the taxi squad filling in the missing pieces, with Jake Bean likely to be a part of the defensive corps and Steven Lorentz set to make his NHL debut with the forwards.
Both goalies have thus far stayed safe and healthy for Carolina, and it looks like Petr Mrazek will get the nod Thursday night.
Here’s how Rod Brind’Amour’s team will likely lineup, though things of course could look very different with all the roster turnover:
Andrei Svechnikov-Sebastian Aho-Brock McGinn
Nino Niederreiter-Vincent Trocheck-Martin Necas
Steven Lorentz-Jordan Staal-Ryan Dzingel
Max McCormick-Morgan Geekie-Sheldon Rempal
Brady Skjei-Dougie Hamilton
Jake Gardiner-Brett Pesce
Haydn Fleury-Jake Bean
Injuries and Scratches: Jesper Fast (COVID protocol), Warren Foegele (COVID protocol), Jordan Martinook (COVID protocol), Jaccob Slavin (COVID protocol), Teuvo Teravainen (COVID protocol)
Taxi Squad: Alex Nedeljkovic, Joakim Ryan
Like the Hurricanes, the Lightning haven’t exactly played a full schedule so far. Tampa Bay is 3-1 through four games, with a two-game set against Dallas having been postponed as well.
In three meetings between the Hurricanes and Lightning last year, it was Carolina that had the upper hand on the eventual champs. The Canes took two of three games, with one of Tampa Bay’s losses coming in overtime. Slavin had the game winner in that one.
Tampa Bay opened this season with back-to-back wins over the Chicago Blackhawks, with the Lightning slotting five goals past Chicago in both of those games. The Lightning moved to 3-0 with an overtime win over Columbus last Thursday, before picking up its first loss of the season Saturday against the Blue Jackets.
Tampa Bay is playing without Nikita Kucherov, who had hip surgery in the offseason, but the roster is still loaded. Steven Stamkos leads the team early with six points, while Brayden Point and Victor Hedman have five. Ondrej Palat is the leading goalscorer with three.
With four days off coming into Thursday’s game and only two games over the past two weeks, the Lightning will probably go with 2019 Vezina winner Andrei Vasilevskiy in goal.
Here’s how Jon Cooper’s Lightning could line up Thursday night, though again this is very subject to change:
Ondrej Palat-Brayden Point-Steven Stamkos
Alex Killorn-Anthony Cirelli-Tyler Johnson
Blake Coleman-Yanni Gourde-barclay Goodrow
Pat Maroon-Mathieu Joseph-Alexander Volkov
Victor Hedman-Jan Rutta
Ryan McDonagh-Luke Schenn
Mikhail Sergachev-Callan Foote
Injuries and Scratches: Andreas Borgman (healthy), Erik Cernak (upper body), Nikita Kucherov (hip), Mitchell Stephens (lower body), Curtis McElhinney (COVID list)
Taxi Squad: Gemel Smith, Spencer Martin