The Carolina Hurricanes open the 2011-2012 season just like they closed out the 2010-2011 season – with a game against their division-rival Tampa Bay Lightning (who went 3-3 in the pre-season). Hopefully, for the Canes, the outcome is much different this go-around. Several Canes players have mentioned that there’s a little extra going to be put into this game, including Eric Staal, who said on WRAL this week, “We owe some payback…I think the guys are pretty excited to have training camp over and done with and the real thing started.” The expectations are very high in Tampa Bay this season after the Lightning reached the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals against the Boston Bruins last season. Their core remains the same with captain Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman and Eric Brewer. They have added a few pieces in the offseason, too, including Brett Connolly, Ryan Shannon, Tom Pyatt, Matt Gilroy and Bruno Gervais. Another headline for the Lightning in the offseason was the signing of star center Steven Stamkos to a 5-year, $37.5 million deal after scoring 45 goals and 46 assists last season. To follow-up on the latest regarding the Lightning, visit our sister site, Bolts by the Bay.
From the Canes standpoint, no official lines have been set yet, but from the lines that head coach Paul Maurice used at practice this week, there’s a good possibility that this will be the line-up for opening night:
Skinner – Staal – Ruutu
Tlusty – Jokinen – LaRose
Ponikarovsky – Sutter – Dwyer
Stewart – Brent – Dalpe
Pitkanen – Gleason
Kaberle – Faulk
Allen – Harrison
Since the Hurricanes are overloaded with defensemen, Jamie McBain, Ryan Murphy and Derek Joslin will all be healthy scratches tonight and will view opening night from the press box. This will be a huge first test for Justin Faulk, who has impressed in all pre-season games. Tomas Kaberle has been his defensive pair partner in a couple of games, so there should be some chemistry there going into tonight. There have been no decisions as to what changes will be made tomorrow against Washington, so be sure to check in for tomorrow’s game preview for updates.
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