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Lightning host playoff-hopeful Hurricanes

by Adam Kimelman /
HURRICANES (26-22-7) at LIGHTNING (33-17-5)

TV -- FS-CR (HD), SUN (HD)    

Last 10 --
Carolina 4-5-1; Tampa Bay 7-3-0

Season series -- This is the third of six games this season between the Southeast Division rivals. The teams split their first two meetings. On Dec. 20, Martin St. Louis had a goal and 2 assists in a 5-1 Lightning win in Tampa. On Jan. 15, Jussi Jokinen had a pair of goals and an assist to lead the Hurricanes to a 6-4 win in Carolina.

Big story -- The Hurricanes used a great January run to climb into eighth place in the East, but they're struggling to hold on to it. The Lightning are trying to take advantage of their 12-game homestand; they won the first three, but just once in three games since then.

Team Scope:

Hurricanes -- One of the reason for the team's rise up the standings in January was its power play, which went 14-for-61 (22.9 percent) in 14 games. However, since February started, the team's extra-man unit has produced just 5 goals on 21 attempts, including 0-for-5 in Thursday's 2-1 loss to the Flyers.

Part of the problem has been injury related. Defenseman Joni Pitkanen was out Thursday with a lower-body injury, and Jokinen has missed four straight games with a lower-body injury.

"They are two pieces out of the five for us," coach Paul Maurice told the Raleigh News and Observer.

Lightning --
Most coaches, after their team gives up five goals in the third period of a game, will scream the paint off the walls. However, Guy Boucher isn't like most coaches. So rather than rant and rave after his team imploded in the final period of a 7-4 loss to the Sabres on Tuesday, Boucher calmly reviewed the video with the players.

"If you look at it with a calm mind and approach, yes, things didn't go our way," Boucher told the St. Petersburg Times. "What you have to control is how you react to that. We didn't react well."

"He brought us in," captain Vincent Lecavalier said, "to make us understand that we got away from our game by being emotional, by losing our focus."

Boucher's general message that the playoffs are an emotional roller coaster; not letting the highs get too high or lows get too low is the key to winning in the postseason.

"So the basic message (Wednesday) was that we sabotaged ourselves," Boucher said. "We like to think nobody is going to beat us if we don't sabotage ourselves because it makes us think we have control over things, and we do."

Who's hot --
Hurricanes rookie center Jeff Skinner has 2 goals and 3 points in his last three games, and continues to lead all rookies with 43 points. … Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier has 3 goals and 5 points in his last four games, including a 2-goal, 3-point game Tuesday against the Sabres.

Injury report -- Jokinen and Pitkanen are questionable for Saturday's game with lower-body injuries. … Defenseman Mike Lundin and forward Ryan Malone are out with abdominal muscle injuries, and Boucher said forward Nate Thompson will not play Saturday due to feeling "woozy" after being hit into the boards head-first on Sunday.

Stat pack --
The Lightning are on pace for 105 points this season, which would be their best season since they finished with 106 points in 2003-04, which also was the season the franchise won its only Stanley Cup.

Puck drop --
With all the top-flight offensive talent in Tampa Bay, one key forward earning some attention is rookie Dana Tyrell. He has 5 goals and 11 points in 52 games, but has emerged as a fourth-line energy player and key penalty killer.

"I thought we might give a little bit of ice time, but then he pushed and deserved more ice time and then he started playing against top lines and he's being double-shifted on the penalty kill … therefore it's difficult sometimes for a young guy to keep up, but he's such a serious individual and he trains so hard," Boucher told the Tampa Tribune.

Tyrell measures in at 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds, but he said he's managed to add about 10 pounds of muscle to his frame during the season.

"I've been given lots of opportunities and playing a lot here of late and the coaches are throwing me out there in lots of situations, so I have to be ready for every situation," Tyrell told the Tribune. "I'm just excited to prove that I can play here."

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