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Carolina Hurricanes vs. Tampa Bay Lightning

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GAME: Carolina Hurricanes (23-30-13-4) at Tampa Bay Lightning (41-17-8-5).

TIME: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. EST.

The Tampa Bay Lightning are toying with the rest of the league right now.

The Lightning will try to run their point streak to 19 games when they take on the Carolina Hurricanes at St. Pete Times Forum.

Owners of the most points in the league, the Lightning improved to 26-3-2-4 since Jan. 3 with Friday's 5-2 win over the New York Rangers. With the victory, the Lightning set a franchise record for points in a season with 95. The Southeast Division champions, who lead Philadelphia by four points in the overall East standings, still have 11 games remaining.

"You can't even put on one hand how many games we haven't been ready to play," Lightning coach John Tortorella said. "Now's not the time to bring it in and be counting them on two hands. This is a time where we really need to stay on top of things. We're spending our days with our tape, going over the minute things."

NHL points leader Martin St. Louis scored two goals and assisted on a third on Friday for the Lightning, who are 14-0-2-2 during their point streak. Vincent Lecavalier added two goals and two assists.

St. Louis, an All-Star this season, has a career-high 34 goals and 84 points.

The Hurricanes, meanwhile, are coming off a 4-2 win over the Atlanta Thrashers on Friday, their first victory since trading captain and future Hall of Famer Ron Francis to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday.

"You don't replace a guy like Ron Francis," said right wing Justin Williams, who scored his 11th goal of the season to break a 2-2 tie. "You just do your best to fill the void as best you can."

The Hurricanes lost to the Lightning 4-2 on Wednesday in their first game without Francis. Carolina gave up goals on Tampa Bay's first two shots and couldn't connect on a number of scoring chances.

STANDINGS: Hurricanes - 63 points, 4th place, 32 PB, Southeast Division. Lightning - 95 points, 1st place, Southeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Hurricanes - Josef Vasicek, 16 goals and 35 points; Williams, 24 assists; Jesse Boulerice, 113 PIM. Lightning - St. Louis, 34 goals, 50 assists and 84 points; Chris Dingman, 136 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through March 11): Hurricanes - Power play: 11.6 percent (37 for 320), 30th in NHL. Penalty killing: 82.1 percent (252 for 307), 23rd. Lightning - Power play: 16.7 percent (49 for 294), 10th. Penalty killing: 84.5 percent (202 for 239), 11th.

GOALTENDERS: Hurricanes - Kevin Weekes (20-25-10, 6 SO, 2.26 GAA); Arturs Irbe (2-1-1, 0, 1.97). Lightning - Nikolai Khabibulin (24-15-7, 3, 2.31); John Grahame (16-7-1, 1, 1.86).

SEASON SERIES: Lightning, 3-0-2.

LAST MEETING: Wednesday; Lightning, 4-2. At Carolina, Dave Andreychuk and Ruslan Fedotenko scored less than a minute apart early in the first period and Grahame made 29 saves for the Lightning.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Hurricanes - 11-15-5-2 on the road; Lightning - 20-7-4-2 at home.


Associated Press
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