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Lightning, Hurricanes renew Southeast rivalry

by Magalie Lafreni?re /

LIGHTNING (8-4-7) at HURRICANES (4-12-5)

Last 10 -- Tampa Bay 5-1-4; Carolina 2-6-2

Season series -- This is the third meeting this season for the divisional rivals. The Lightning and the Hurricanes split their first two games. Carolina won the first matchup, 2-1, in a shootout on Oct. 6, while the Lightning came away with a 5-2 win on Oct. 10.

Big story -- The last time the Hurricanes faced the Lightning, it was the start of their record-setting 14-game losing streak and it was also the Lightning's first win against the Hurricanes in nine games. While the 'Canes will be looking to grab consecutive wins for just the second time this season, the Bolts will also be seeking their first win at the RBC Center since Nov. 8, 2007.

Team Scope:

Lightning -- After a rough start, the Lightning have had at least a point in their last seven games and are slowly edging up in the standings. Seventh in the Eastern Conference, they also sit in second place behind the Capitals in the Southeast Division. With the Ducks ahead 3-0 midway through the second period on Thursday, the Bolts rallied with three straight goals from Jeff Halpern, Steven Stamkos and Ryan Malone to force overtime. The Ducks scored just 52 second into overtime for the win.

"Down 3-0 on the road and you get a point; that's pretty good," St. Louis said.

Hurricanes --
After a disastrous couple of weeks, the Hurricanes have picked up a point in each of their last three games and could pick up a third win in four games Saturday. Carolina broke its winless streak with a 5-4 shootout win over the Wild on Sunday, lost in the shootout to Montreal on Tuesday and prevailed once again in the shootout over the Maple Leafs Thursday night. The 'Canes trailed the Leafs by three goals after the first period, but rallied in the third. Eric Cole scored the tying goal with just three seconds left in regulation to force the extra period, while Tuomo Ruutu and Jussi Jokinen scored shootout goals for the win.

"We've got tension. We've got a lot of disappointment in there for where we're at, but they haven't splintered and they haven't quit on each other," coach Paul Maurice said. "The players still fight. The players still believe, and they compete."

Who's hot -- Malone is riding a five-game point streak with nine points, while Stamkos, who leads the Lightning with 22 points, picked up his 14th goal of the season against Anaheim. This week we have also seen a bit of the star that is Vincent Lecavalier. The captain has had four points in his last two games, including some excellent chances against the Ducks.

Carolina defenseman Tim Gleason, who didn't even score during the 2008-09 regular season, had a great night Thursday with two third-period goals. Ray Whitney and Ruutu tie for the team lead with 14 points. In addition to his shootout goal Tuesday, Ruutu picked up four assists.

Injury report -- Eric Staal was officially placed on the injured reserve yesterday with an upper-body injury. He joins goaltender Cam Ward (lacerated left leg). Goaltender Michael Leighton (lower body) is also out and doubtful for Saturday, while Joni Pitkanen (lower body) could make his return. Tampa defenseman Mattias Ohlund (lower body) is questionable for Saturday.

Stat pack --
Malone, who picked up his first career hat trick on Oct. 10 against the Hurricanes, has six goals and one assist in his last seven games against Carolina.

Puck drop -- Despite injuries to their star center and goaltender, the 'Canes have been pulling it together in their last three games -- but will they be able to hold off a healthy Lightning team, which has improved with every game this month?

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