The Tampa Bay Lightning closes out their three game homestand tonight, facing-off against the Carolina Hurricanes in the first of six meetings between these two teams this season and as well looks to extend their best start in franchise history.
The Bolts (18-10-4) come into the contest with a home record 9-2-2 record and a six game home winning streak. They’ve earned points in six consecutive home games and are 5-2-1 in their last eight to leapfrog into a tie with the Washington Capitals for second place in the Southeast Division and are just one point the division leaders Atlanta Thrashers.
Against the Canes, the Bolts are 11-6-1 at the St. Pete Times Forum and their all-time wins (25) against the Hurricanes at home are the most against any opponent. The teams split their 2009-10 season series, each going 3-2-1, with each team going 2-1-0 at home and 1-1-1 on the road.
In the Lightning’s last game on Saturday night, a superb 22 save performance from Mike Smith backed by goals by Simon Gagne, Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis defeated Ryan Miller and the Buffalo Sabres 3-1.
Smith improved to 2-0-0 in his last two starts, while compiling a 0.96 goals-against average and a .961 save percentage. He won for the seventh straight time in his last eight consecutive starts at home and won for the second time against the Sabres this season.
“I thought we played solid. Our penalty kill was great, our power play scored, our goaltender played great. I’d love to be mad at something because I want the players to want more and make sure that we don’t sit on what we do, but the reality is this was solid,” said Boucher.
Carolina (15-12-4) comes into the game with a four game winning streak – three straight on the road. On Saturday night the Canes defeated the Anaheim Ducks 4-2 behind Eric Staal’s hat trick and Cam Ward’s 43 save performance which included 39 in a row.
Ward who has made 10 straight starts in goal is expected to make his 11th tonight. In his last nine games Ward is 5-2-2 with a 2.03 GAA and a whopping .945 save percentage. Ward is 14-9-1, with a 2.78 GAA in 25 career appearances against the Lightning.
Ward will certainly have his hands full as the Bolts come in with 98 goals scored (7th in the league) along with a 32.7 shots on goal percentage for the league’s 6th best.
The Hurricanes, who allow 34.5 shots per game, which is 29th in the league, have allowed 40 or more shots seven times this season and 39 shots on four other occasions. They’ve killed off 37 of 42 power-plays in their past 12 games, but rank 27th overall on the road penalty-kill (76.1).
Meanwhile, the Bolts allow a league-low 27 shots per game and come into the game with the leagues 4th best power-play at 23.7 and rank number 1 at home with a 27.6. On the penalty-kill, the Lightning hold the second best ranking at home at 88.9 and overall are ranked 7th at 84.5.
Mike Smith (10-5-0, 3.20, .883 SV %) is expected to start in goal for the third straight game for the Bolts, but apparently Simon Gagne, rounding the net, clipped Smith’s left skate which twisted Smith’s knee during today’s morning skate may force Coach Guy Boucher to make a change and start Dan Ellis.
Lightning beat writer Damien Cristodero of the St. Pete Times reports that Smith left practice and went to have his knee checked at the doctors. If he’s okay, he’ll most likely start… if not, Dan Ellis will get the nod with Cedrik Desjardins backing him up.
Smith is 0-6-3 with a 3.29 GAA in nine career games against the Hurricanes and Ellis (8-5-4, 3.23 GAA, .876 SV %) is a 1-0-0 record with a 2.03 GAA career against the Hurricanes.
Desjardins was called-up from Norfolk not because of Smith’s injury. The Lightning’s AHL affiliate Norfolk Admirals have a week off and though it was a good opportunity to have Desjardins work with goaltending Coach Franz Jean and the team. Coach Guy Boucher said the call-up had been planned for a month and a half.
Desjardins has is 12-5-1 with a 2.63 GAA and a .900 save percentage for the Admirals… he is 8-1-0 in his past nine games with a .909 save percentage and is tied for fourth in the AHL for wins.
Lightning Nutz and Boltz
Martin St. Louis tied Vincent Lecavalier for 1st place on the all-time franchise list for most career GWGs with 50. St. Louis has 57 points (31G, 26A) in 56 career games against Carolina.
The Lightning has set franchise records in each of their last 2 wins for the most points to open a season in the shortest span of games. Tampa Bay has 40 points through 32 games this season, a franchise-best.
The Lightning has scored the NHL’s highest total of PPGs with 33 and has scored a PPG in 7 of the last 11 games, including 4 of the last 5 at home. In those last 5 at the Forum, Tampa Bay has gone 7-25 (28.0%) with the man advantage.
- Brett Clark is expected to appear in his 550 GP tonight
- Mattias Ohlund is 1 shy of 250 assists
- Steven Stamkos is 1 shy of 100 goals
- Vincent Lecavalier is 1 shy of 750 points
- Ryan Malone has 11 points, including seven assists, in his last nine games
- Steven Stamkos has four goals in his last three
- Randy Jones also has points in four of the last five
Through games of Dec. 18, 2010 first-round draft pick (7th overall) Jeff Skinner ranked first among all NHL rookies with 15 assists, second among league rookies with 23 points and sixth among league rookies with eight goals.
- Jamie McBain has points in three straight games (1G, 2A) and assists in two straight
- Eric Staal has points in three straight games (4G, 1A) and goals in two straight. He notched his 12th career hat trick in Carolina’s 4-2 win against Anaheim on Saturday. Staal has 25 goals and 44 points in 41 career games against the Lightning.
- Joni Pitkanen has assists and points in three consecutive games
- Brandon Sutter has points in two straight games (1G, 1A)
Lightning: Steve Downie (Ankle sprain; IR-out indefinitely), Mike Smith (Knee; day-to-day)
Hurricanes: Jiri Tlusty (Arm; out indefinitely)
Lightning Upcoming Games
12/22/2010 @ New York Islanders – 7:00 PM SUN (HD)
12/23/2010 @ New York Rangers – 7:00 PM SUN (HD)
12/26/2010 @ Atlanta Thrashers -7:00 PM SUN (HD)
12/28/2010 vs. Boston Bruins – 7:30 PM TSN2 (HD), VERSUS (HD)
12/30/2010 vs. Montreal Canadiens – 7:30 PM (SUN (HD), RDS (HD)
From now until January 3rd, fans will have the opportunity to cast their votes to pick part of the 2011 NHL All-Star teams via on-line. Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier are on the NHL All-Star fan ballot. Click here to send Stammer, Marty and Vinny to the All-Star Game.
For more info: Tampa Bay Lightning, 2010 NHL All-Star Game, Carolina Hurricanes
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