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Lightning look to end homestand with win vs. Canes

by Corey Long / NHL.com

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:

HURRICANES

Jeff Skinner - Eric StaalJiri Tlusty

Elias Lindholm - Riley NashNathan 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

Cam Ward

Anton Khudobin

Scratched: Tim Gleason, Brett Bellemore

Injured: Jordan Staal (broken leg), Alexander Semin (upper body), Andrej Nestrasil (upper body).

LIGHTNING

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

Evgeni Nabokov

Ben Bishop

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.

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