The Carolina Hurricanes end a six-game home stretch tonight at the RBC Center against a playoff determined Tampa Bay Lighting. The Canes are coming off a hard fought loss against the New York Rangers on Thursday night. The Lightning however, found a way to push past the Rangers in a 4-3 overtime win Friday. The Boys in Bolts have a three-game winning streak and are sitting at tenth in the Eastern Conference. So far, the four games of this six game series have been evenly split. When these teams last met in January, Carolina topped Tampa Bay 5-2. While the playoffs might just be a small glimmer for the Canes now, the Lighting are pushing ahead, and will be looking to take two points from a Southeast Division team.
Captain Eric Staal continued his point streak on Thursday against the Rangers and now has extended to 18 points in the last ten games. The Lighting will have to do a little more than throw a few bolts to contain the storm that has been Eric Staal as of late. Though the second line for the Canes has been struggling, Jeff Skinner is ramping up again with four points in his last three games. Let’s just hope Skinny can stay out of the penalty box tonight after having a total of four minutes in the game against the Rangers.
And speaking of penalties, I would be remiss as a Canes fan not to mention that everyone’s favorite official, Tim Peel, is scheduled to referee tonight. (Do you need a reminder of who Tim Peel is? Here you go.) I’m sure many eyes will be on him tonight, and Caniacs are most likely brushing up on their “Ref You Suck!” chants. I’m truly hoping the officiating is not an issue tonight.
The Canes injury situation is slowly looking better as backup goalie Brian Boucher has come off the Injured Reserve and will back up Cam Ward tonight after missing three months with a groin injury. Justin Peters was reassigned to the Charlotte Checkers Friday. Chad LaRose, who has been dealing with injuries on and off since January, will be back in the lineup tonight on the second line. On the Bolts side, they have five players on IR, most notably Vincent Lecavalier and Marc-Andre Bergeron.
Keys for the Canes tonight:
-Shut down Spicoli, er, Stamkos. Steven Stamkos. Yes we know you rank first in goals for the whole entire NHL. Yes I’m bitter because I strongly believe Jeff Skinner could have been here if not for the concussion. We also know you rank second in the NHL in points. Guess what? Stamkos is also third in the league in Game Winning Goals. I’m going to say it again: SHUT. HIM. DOWN.
-The Hurricanes also need to capitalize more on Power Play opportunities. With both the Canes and the Bolts being fairly even on the Power Play and Penalty Kill, tonight could be an opportunity to really take advantage.
-Finish strong. The Lightning rallied in the third period last night to defeat the Rangers. We’re aware that the third period and finishing the last 20 minutes hasn’t been a strong suit for the Canes this season. So as I always tell them when they come out of that locker room at the beginning of the third: Hold it down boys!
Here’s a look at the lines, which have shifted to include the return of LaRose:
Boychuck – Staal – Tlusty
Skinner – Jokinen – LaRose
Bowman – Sutter – Nodl
Joslin – Brent – Stewart
Jerome Samson will be the extra forward tonight.
Catch the game tonight at 7:00 PM on Fox Sports Carolina or tune in to Chuck Kaiton on 99.9FM.
For a look at the other side of the fence, check out our sister site Bolts By The Bay.
Have any comments on tonight’s contest? Want to chop off Steven Stamkos’s hair as much as I do? Leave us a comment! You can find us on Facebook at CardiacCane or come chat with us on Twitter: @Esbee92, @CardiacCaneFS, @peacelovepuck, @caniac176 and @CaniacCaz.