Carolina Hurricanes (14-23-7) at Tampa Bay Lightning (17-20-4)
Tampa Bay Times Forum, 7:30 p.m.
TV: FS-Carolinas, Sun Sports
If you can believe it, the Hurricanes have yet another player on the shelf with Jaro Spacek possibly being out for tonight's game after being hit by a puck in Tuesday's game against the Flyers. This means that another lineup change as been made with Derek Joslin being recalled from his conditioning stint in Charlotte to fill in for Spacek if needed. When it rains, it pours. I know that teams keep track of the amount of "man games" they have lost in a year but something I want to see is what the record is for the amount of consecutive lineup changes made in a season. The Hurricanes appear to be aiming for the record. The good news here is that Joslin has played with the team before and will probably be used in a sheltered third pairing role, so his play shouldn't be too much of a concern unless another injury happens. *knock on wood*
One other thing that is hard to believe is that a win against Tampa Bay tonight would put the Canes only one game out of fourth in the division. Although, that isn't too surprising when you look at how much the Bolts have fallen off in every category this year but they haven't been as horrible lately (4-4-2 in their last 10) and did beat us 5-2 on New Year's Eve so this won't be an easy game for Carolina. I am sure the Canes are sick and tired of being at the bottom of the division, so it would be great to see them win this game and start to climb out of the cellar.
Lines & more after the jump
Tlusty - Staal - Ruutu
Ponikarovsky - Jokinen - Samson
Nodl - Sutter - Dwyer
Sutter42 - Brent - Stewart
Allen - Gleason
Harrison - Faulk
McBain - Joslin
Downie - Stamkos - St. Louis
Moore - Lecavalier - Connolly
Malone - Thompson - Purcell
Labrie - Pyatt - Tyrell
Kubina - Brewer
Gilroy - Clark
Gervais - Bergeron
What happened last time?
In a word, we got Stamkos'd. He recorded a hat trick and sparked a huge rally for Tampa Bay where they scored four unanswered goals. It might look like another third period meltdown for Carolina but they were being outplayed at even strength for the entire game and the game-tying goal from Stamkos along with having to kill a penalty to start the third period is what spelled the end for Carolina. They weren't being outplayed by that wide of a margin until around the 25 minute mark and it's not a surprise to see that Tampa tied the game and eventually broke away after that point.
Tampa Bay is a beatable team, though. They control only 47% of the even strength shots with the score tied, which is one of the worst rates in the league and they don't have too many forwards who are controlling possession aside from Stamkos, Malone, St. Louis and Steve Downie. The Bolts have also gotten some horrendous goaltending with most of that due to Dwayne Roloson having an off year, but Garon is starting tonight so that shouldn't be too much of a worry. What will be a problem is not having Victor Hedman on the blue line as he is still out with a concussion and he has been their best all-around defenseman this season. Couple this with the loss of Mattias Ohlund before the year started and their D is in rough shape right now. Adam Hall was also placed on the IR last week and he was playing the Manny Malhotra/Dave Bolland role for them to free up easier ice-time for Stamkos & Lecavalier so that isn't a minuscule loss but not one that will hurt the team too much.
- I want to see if Jerome Samson can follow up that great performance he had on Tuesday night because with the trade deadline looming, it means that we have a chance to make space for younger players. However, they have to perform at a consistent level if they want to stay on the team and Samson is going to need more than one great game to stay on this team full-time.
- LaRose being out of the lineup means everyone is going to need to chip in to pick up the slack and one of the guys doing that on the PK was Brett Sutter. First time this season he was used on the PK and he gave up a scoring chance with about two minutes of ice-time. Par for the course for anyone.
- Keeping Allen/Gleason together might be the smart thing to do here because Faulk/Harrison didn't get the job done in the last game, so going with the more experienced duo would be the better call, in my opinion. Plus, it would be silly to separate them and/or put them off the top pair after their performance against Claude Giroux's line on Tuesday.
- Interested to see what Boucher is doing with his forwards since he took Moore off the third line and has Nate Thompson playing there now. He also has Purcell and Malone playing on the third line too so I doubt that will be their main defensive unit. Tom Pyatt could get those honors instead but his linemates are noticably weaker than usual now.
- Jeff Skinner and Chad LaRose have scored five combined goals against the Lightning this year. When you take into account that the Canes have scored only seven goals against Tampa total, that makes the outlook for tonight's game look really bad, but I'm gonna stay confident because that's just the kind of guy I am.
Enjoy the game.