Tonight the Hurricanes hope to avenge their New Year’s Eve loss as they take on the Tampa Bay Lightning in the recently renamed Tampa Bay Times Forum. If it seems the Canes have faced the Bolts a lot this year, it is because they have. This is the fourth time the teams have played and there are two more matchups left for the season after tonight. Tampa Bay leads the series 2-1.
In their last meeting, the Bolts walked way with a 5-2 victory and Steven Stamkos’ hat trick accounted for most of those goals. The Lightning is coming off of a 5-4 shootout loss at home against the Vancouver Canucks. The Hurricanes lost to the Philadelphia Flyers at home Tuesday night, 2-1.
While I find it hard to believe, the Lightning is only three points ahead of the Canes in the Eastern Conference with thirty-eight points and the thirteenth spot. Our beloved Hurricanes sit a point behind the Islanders in fifteenth place with thirty-five points. (Fifteenth means last, but it sounds much nicer.)
Tampa Bay comes to the rink with the usual suspects when it comes to scoring. Steven Stamkos leads the league with twenty-nine goals and he is fourth in the league in points with forty-seven. Vincent Lecavalier sits behind Stamkos as the top goal scorer on the Bolts with sixteen. Martin St. Louis is second in points with ten goals but he has a hearty twenty-three helpers. In other words, don’t take your eyes off those guys!
The Canes are still a bit battered and bruised as they made the trip without Chad LaRose who incurred an upper body injury in practice the other day. Jerome Samson from Charlotte is still filling his spot in the lineup. Although he was cleared for contact on Tuesday, Jeff Skinner will not be in the lineup tonight. While Caniacs and the players alike desperately miss the sophomore skater and his contributions, I am glad to see the team exercising caution with his comeback. Joni Pitkanen is still out recovering from his knee injury and a concussion. Backup tender Brian Boucher remains on injured reserve with his lower body injury. Jaroslav Spacek was hit in the face with a puck during Tuesday’s tilt against Philadelphia but he is expected to play and was wearing a full cage during practice. Derek Joslin has been recalled by the squad and they may dress seven defensemen.
Eric Staal will need to continue his six game point streak if the Canes want to come out on top tonight. The captain has three goals and seven helpers in the last six games. Tuomo Ruutu remains the top goal scorer on the team with fourteen goals and nine assists. He and Jussi Jokinen still sit a point behind Jeff Skinner who has not played since December 7th. Someone on the team needs to pick up the goal scoring. The “who” remains to be seen. This Caniac is not picky as long as someone lights the lamp.
The Lightning will be without Mattias Ohlund (knee) and Ryan Shannon (lower body). 6’6” blueliner Victor Hedman is still out with a concussion.
Tlusty / Staal / Ruutu
Dwyer / Sutter 16 / Nodl
Samson / Jokinen / Ponikarovsky
Stewart / Brent / Sutter 42
Gleason / Allen
Harrison / Faulk
Spacek / McBain
Joslin (not known where he will play)
Keys to the game:
- If you see a guy wearing #91, keep the puck away from him! Stamkos has a hot stick and is not afraid to use it. Stamkos, Lecavalier and St. Louis are a dangerous combination and that line has to be shut down.
- Eric Staal. The captain needs to continue his level of play and get points any way he can.
- No mental mistakes. No missing your coverage in front of the net. No dumb penalties. Play hard but play smart.
- Don’t get hurt! This is more like a prayer to the hockey gods. We are not amused by your sense of humor hockey gods. Give us a break! (and that does not mean a break of the BONE variety)
The puck drops at 7:30 tonight Caniacs, not at 7. The game will be broadcast on Fox Sports Carolinas and 99.9 the Fan. If you want to “Be the Thunder,” stop by our sister site Bolts by the Bay. Enjoy the game and Let’s Go Canes!
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Topics: Brian Boucher, Cam Ward, Chad LaRose, Derek Joslin, Eastern Conference Standings, Eric Staal, Hockey Gods, Jaroslav Spacek, Jeff Skinner, Jerome Samson, Joni Pitkanen, Joni Pitkanen Knee Surgery, Jussi Jokinen, Kirk Muller, Martin St. Louis, Mathieu Garon, Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning, Tuomo Ruutu, Vincent Lecavalier