Hurricanes Look To Finish Strong, Carolina vs. Tampa Preview


The Carolina Hurricanes once again lost in a critical game on Sunday afternoon to the Buffalo Sabres. The Hurricanes never really seemed to be in it and seem to be a team that can not play in the pressure game. The Hurricanes were only 6 points back before losing to the Sabres, but not sit 8 points back with 10 games remaining in the season. As much as I would like to keep hope alive the Buffalo game was probably the second nail in the coffin for the Hurricanes season. Any combination of 13 points lost by the Hurricanes or won by the Boston Bruins will officially eliminate the Hurricanes from playoff contention. The Hurricanes will start the tough task tonight with a game against southeast division rival Tampa Bay.

The Tampa Bay Lightning are currently tied with the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference with 68 points and like the Hurricanes are a long shot to make the playoffs this season. The star for the Tampa Bay Lightning this year has been 2nd year player and 2008 1st overall pick Steven Stamkos. Stamkos leads the team in goals with 43 and is tied for the lead in points with 83. The Lightning seem to finally have a stable ownership as business man Jeff Vinik bought the team on March 3. The other two key components of the Lightning are Captain Vinny Lecavalier and Marty St. Louis.  Lecavalier has had a down year according to standards in career but Marty St. Louis has not disappointed with 83 points on the season.  The Lightning are still trying to figure out if Mike Smith is the guy they thought they were getting from Dallas as his goal tending has not been the best this year which has left the gate open for back up goalie Antero Nittymaki.  The Lightning have a good core of guys to build around with Stamkos, Hedman, St. Louis, and Lecavalier, but it looks like this team could  be competing for a playoff spot next season.

The Carolina Hurricanes come down the strech not being able to win the big game, just like earlier this season when the team lost 14 games in a row.  Well you say but we beat the Capital and the Penguins on the road.  That is true, but they Hurricanes also were playing without any pressure as they were suppose to lose to both of those teams.  The game with pressure against Buffalo is a more telling sign of this team and this season.  The Hurricanes game up 5 goals in only 15 shots to the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday.  The Hurricanes looked like the inferior team, which they have been this season.  With that being said the Hurricanes look to finish strong start with a win in Tampa tonight.  The Hurricanes and Lightning have not seen each other in a while and will play 3 times in the final two weeks including tonight.  If the Hurricanes are to win tonight they have to get production from the top line.  Yes I know Staal scored a goal on Sunday, but it was truthfully a garbage goal with under 4 minutes remaining and the Hurricanes down 3.  Eric Staal has to show up for this team to be affective.  Staal is the so called super star and captain of the Hurricanes.  However, after being a hot player after being named captain he has really cooled off and been very inaffective.  The Hurricanes also must get the power play going again.  The teams power play had climbed to 15th in the league but is now back down to 19th.  The one bright spot has been the penalty kill and that has not even been doing as well.  If the team improves their special teams tonight I see them coming out of Tampa with a win.

News & Notes:  Hurricanes and Lightning will meet 3 times, including tonight, in the final three weeks

Hurricanes look to bounce back from loss to the Sabres

Lightning now under new Ownership

Injuries:  CAR  Cam Ward  Back

CAR  Alexandre Picard  Upper-Body

CAR  Tim Gleason  Broken Foot

TAM  Mattias Ohlund  Ankle

TAM  Ryan Malone  Knee Surgery

Prediction:  CAR 4 TAM 3  F/OT