HURRICANES (8-16-3) at LIGHTNING (18-8-3)
TV: FS-CR, SUN
TAMPA -- With a grueling road schedule on the horizon, the Tampa Bay Lightning want to finish their recent homestand at Amalie Arena on a high note.
After a 3-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday and a 5-3 loss to the Washington Capitals on Tuesday, the Lightning (18-8-3) will try to salvage the week against the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday.
Lightning center Steven Stamkos said while every team faces adversity during an 82-game season, the good teams find ways to avoid slumps.
“Good teams don’t lose three in a row,” Stamkos said. “Obviously you don’t want to lose two in a row either, but it is what it is. We want to bounce back and take care of this last game. We have 11 of the next 15 on the road so taking care of home ice is important.”
The Hurricanes (8-16-3) would appear to be the right team at the right time for the Lightning. They are 3-9-2 on the road this season, but Stamkos said that those teams can be very dangerous, especially with the Lightning pressing for a win.
“They are a better team than the record indicates,” Stamkos said. “They are pushing for a win too and they see where we are in the standings. They are going to want to make a statement against the one of the best teams in the East.”
The Lightning will give backup goalie Evgeni Nabokov the start Thursday, his first start since a 2-1 shootout loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Dec. 2.
It’s Nabokov’s first start that didn’t come on the end of back-to-back games, and Lightning assistant coach Rick Bowness said it’s important to get Nabokov ice time.
“We have to get him out there to keep him sharp,” Bowness said. “We’re going on a five-game road trip with two back-to-backs so we want to give him a game before we start that stretch.”
Bowness also suggested the time was right to give starting goalie Ben Bishop a rest, and that the Lightning want to keep him fresh and keep his number of starts to around 60 games this season.
Cam Ward, who had 14 saves, in a 2-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils on Monday, is expected to be in net for Carolina.
Here are the projected lineups:
Jeff Skinner - Eric Staal – Jiri Tlusty
Elias Lindholm - Riley Nash – Nathan Gerbe
Brad Malone - Victor Rask - Chris Terry
Zach Boychuk - Jay McClement - Patrick Dwyer
Andrej Sekera - Justin Faulk
Jay Harrison - John-Michael Liles
Ron Hainsey - Michal Jordan
Scratched: Tim Gleason, Brett Bellemore
Injured: Jordan Staal (broken leg), Alexander Semin (upper body), Andrej Nestrasil (upper body).
Alex Killorn - Steven Stamkos - Ryan Callahan
Ondrej Palat - Tyler Johnson - Nikita Kucherov
Brett Connolly - Valtteri Filppula - Jonathan Drouin
Cedric Paquette - Brian Boyle - Brenden Morrow
Victor Hedman - Anton Stralman
Andrej Sustr - Jason Garrison
Radko Gudas - Matthew Carle
Scratched: Mark Barberio, J.T. Brown
Status report: Both teams had an optional skate Thursday. … Eric Staal is expected to return to the lineup Thursday and Malone will return to the bench. … Drouin, a healthy scratch on Tuesday, will return to the lineup for Brown.
Who's hot: Stamkos scored his 250th career NHL goal in a 5-3 loss to the Washington Capitals on Tuesday. … Justin Faulk scored Carolina’s only goal in a 2-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils on Monday.