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Hurricanes, Lightning play for pride

by Brian Compton

HURRICANES (17-24-3) at LIGHTNING (17-23-4)


Last 10: Carolina 1-8-1; Tampa Bay 2-5-3.

Season series: This is the fifth of five meetings. The Tampa Bay Lightning are going for a season-series sweep of the Carolina Hurricanes as they’ve outscored their Southeast Division rivals by an 18-4 margin in four victories.

Big story: Both teams have been mathematically eliminated from Stanley Cup Playoff contention, so they’ll be playing for pride Sunday.

Team Scope:

Hurricanes: The woes continued for Carolina on Saturday at PNC Arena, where it suffered a 5-3 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers. The Hurricanes have recorded only two victories in the past 19 games (2-15-2).

"We were just a step behind on a lot of plays, taking time and space away from them, disallowing that type of stuff," coach Kirk Muller said after the club’s latest loss. "We let them come through the neutral zone too easy, which is not our trait recently.

"We have to learn how to be ready to go every night. It doesn't matter. Every night, you have to come ready to play in the NHL. Tonight, I didn't think we had that tempo that we should."

Lightning: Little has gone right for Tampa Bay this season, and it appears the campaign will end much like it began – in frustrating fashion. The Lightning enter Sunday’s action with a five-game losing streak, as they’re coming off a 3-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre on Thursday.

Tampa Bay has collected two points during the skid. Thursday’s loss officially eliminated any hope of the Bolts making the playoffs.

"I haven't been here that long, but that was the best game we've played from start to finish," coach Jon Cooper said after the game. "I thought we controlled a lot of the play. I don't know what the scoring chances were, but I'd have to say we were on the positive end of that. Unfortunately, we're on the negative end of the score. But if you can play consistently the way we did tonight, we're going to win more games than we lose."

Who's hot: With a goal Saturday, Hurricanes captain Eric Staal has nine points in his past 10 games. … Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman has three assists in the past four contests.

Injury report: For the Hurricanes, goalie Cam Ward (knee), defenseman Joni Pitkanen (heel) and forwards Tim Brent (lower body) and Drayson Bowman (upper body) are out. … The Lightning are expected to be without forward Tom Pyatt (upper body) and goalie Anders Lindback (lower body).

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