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Hurricanes look to draw closer against Lightning

by Brian Hunter /

HURRICANES (15-12-4) at LIGHTNING (18-10-4)


Last 10:
Carolina 6-2-2; Tampa Bay 5-3-2

Season series: First of six meetings this season between these Southeast Division rivals. They split their half-dozen games on the 2009-10 schedule. Ryan Malone led all scorers with 5 goals, including a hat trick in Tampa Bay's 5-2 win on Oct. 10, 2009. Chad LaRose had 4 goals to pace Carolina.

Big story: It's been a three-team race for first in the Southeast between the Lightning, Thrashers and Capitals, but the Hurricanes have been as hot as anyone in the division of late. They carry a four-game winning streak into Monday's action and are four points behind the Bruins for eighth place in the Eastern Conference.

Team Scope:

Hurricanes: This will be Carolina's sixth road game in its last seven overall. The Hurricanes completed a recent five-game road trip with three straight wins and made their rare appearance at the RBC Center on Saturday night a successful one by doubling up the Ducks 4-2 as Eric Staal recorded the hat trick. Staal had a pair of power-play goals in the first period and scored what turned out to be the winner 1:41 into the second. Joe Corvo also tallied into an empty net.

"Staal has the ability to take the game over and I thought that he picked up his play when we were down that one goal and put the team on his shoulders," said winning goalie Cam Ward, who made 43 saves in his 10th consecutive start. "There's a reason why he's one of the more dominant players in the League, and you got to see it tonight."

Mike Smith has limited the opposition to one goal in each of Tampa Bay's last two victories. The Lightning have won three straight overall, and are looking to sweep a three-game homestand before heading out on the road for games against the Islanders, Rangers and Thrashers. In their most recent triumph, 3-1 over the Sabres on Saturday, goals by Simon Gagne and Steven Stamkos staked the Bolts to an early lead and Martin St. Louis added an empty-netter.

"Tonight we hardly gave up a scoring chance," Smith said. "You know, what can I say? These guys are just battling every night and it was a fantastic win for the team."
Who's hot:
Staal has 4 goals in his last two games and the Hurricanes' captain is seventh in the NHL with 16 this season. … Stamkos has 4 goals and 2 assists in his last four games for the Lightning. St. Louis has 1 goal and 5 assists during that same span.

Injury report: Carolina forward Jiri Tlusty (arm) is out indefinitely. … Tampa Bay forward Steve Downie (ankle) is on injured reserve.

Stat pack: Staal's hat trick was the 12th of his career, extending a franchise record for the Hurricanes and tying him with Marian Gaborik and Alex Kovalev for second among active players. … Stamkos has 1 goal and 3 assists in 11 career games against Carolina -- he has at least 6 goals and 11 points against every other Southeast opponent.

Puck drop: Some coaches are notorious for finding minor imperfections even in the most dominant of victories, but Guy Boucher was left searching after Tampa Bay throttled Buffalo.

"I thought tonight we played solid," he said. "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 we don't sit on what we do, but the reality is this was solid."

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