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Lightning-Hurricanes Preview @NHLdotcom

GAME: Tampa Bay Lightning (38-28-5) at Carolina Hurricanes (46-18-6).

TIME: Monday, 7 p.m. EST.

The Carolina Hurricanes need one more point to clinch their first playoff berth since they reached the 2002 Stanley Cup finals.

Carolina tries to secure its spot in the postseason as it hosts the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Hurricanes have lost four of five meetings this season against their Southeast Division rival, with the lone Carolina victory a 6-4 win at home on Dec. 20.

Tampa Bay is the only team which could still catch the Hurricanes in the division. But with a victory over the Lightning, Carolina would need just two more points to clinch the Southeast title.

If the Hurricanes perform as they did in Saturday's 3-1 home loss to the Washington Capitals, though, they might draw further ire from coach Peter Laviolette.

"I'd hate to see the same effort and preparation again," said Laviolette, whose team has lost three of its last four. "It's unacceptable. It's inexcusable."

The Hurricanes have won 13 of their last 15 home games, but the two defeats have come to the Eastern Conference's worst teams, the Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins. Carolina's 27-6-1 home record is tied with Nashville for the best in the NHL.

Center Doug Weight and defensemen Bret Hedican and Niclas Wallin could return against Tampa Bay after each missed the previous game with lower-body injuries.

Their absence didn't soften Laviolette's evaluation of his team.

"We had an obligation to show up and play a hockey game," Laviolette said. "What has been the cornerstone of our team, our work ethic and tenacity, was not there."

The Lightning are 4-0-1 in their last five games overall but have struggled away from home recently, dropping four of their last five road contests.

Tampa Bay earned a 4-3 win over the New York Rangers on Saturday, as Brad Richards scored the only goal in a shootout. Fredrik Modin and Cory Sarich scored second-period goals to help the Lightning rally from a 3-1 deficit.

"We watched them play a little bit at the start of the game," Richards said. "We were worried about some of their key players, and after they scored their third goal, we just started playing and didn't care what they were doing. We kind of took it to them."

Richards had two assists to extend his points streak to five games. He has two goals and nine assists during the run.

"Richie has been money," Lightning coach John Tortorella said. "Scoring that first (shootout) goal is big. It was an exciting game. We found a way."

Lightning defenseman Dan Boyle will not play Monday after injuring his right ankle in the first period against the Rangers.

STANDINGS: Lightning - 81 points, 2nd place, 17 PB, Southeast Division. Hurricanes - 98 points, 1st place, Southeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Lightning - Vincent Lecavalier, 32 goals; Richards, 57 assists and 78 points; Pavel Kubina, 88 PIM. Hurricanes - Eric Staal, 42 goals, 49 assists and 91 points; Mike Commodore, 105 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Lightning - Power play: 16.1 percent (68 for 422), 23rd in NHL. Penalty killing: 81.7 percent (281 for 344), 17th. Hurricanes - Power play: 18.1 percent (84 for 464), 13th. Penalty killing: 82.4 percent (313 for 380), 15th.

GOALTENDERS: Lightning - John Grahame (27-18-1, 5 SO, 3.00 GAA); Gerald Coleman (0-0-1, 0, 2.79). Hurricanes - Martin Gerber (33-12-4, 3, 2.70); Cam Ward (13-6-2, 0, 3.52).

SEASON SERIES: Lightning, 4-1.

LAST MEETING: Feb. 9; Lightning, 5-3. At Tampa, Fla., Grahame made 28 saves while playing the final 35:52 and Modin scored twice for the Lightning. Richards had three assists.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Lightning - 18-16-3 on the road; Hurricanes - 27-6-1 at home.

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