LIGHTNING (0-1-0) at HURRICANES (0-2-0)
Season Series: It was a lopsided affair in 2008-09, as Carolina took all six games from Tampa Bay. The Lightning never scored more than three goals in any of those matches, and were pummeled by a 9-3 score in the series finale on March 7, 2009.
Big Story: After a tremendous run to the Eastern Conference Finals, the Hurricanes obviously entered this new season with great expectations. However, Carolina is winless in its first two games in 2009-10 and has been outscored by a 9-2 margin. Tuesday night is Tampa Bay's second straight road game, as the Lightning dropped a 6-3 decision at Atlanta on Saturday.
Lightning: Tampa Bay will need a better performance from No. 1 goaltender Mike Smith on Tuesday night. Smith, acquired in the deal that sent former Conn Smythe Trophy winner Brad Richards to the Dallas Stars, allowed six goals on just 28 shots against the Thrashers on Saturday. Atlanta had a 4-0 lead by the 12:42 mark of the second period. However, coach Rick Tocchet believes his defensemen also need to have a greater sense of urgency.
"There were some really freaky goals," Tocchet said. "Two of them, at least, were really strange goals, but saying that, there is some defensive zone stuff that we need to get a little better detail on."
Hurricanes: Carolina will attempt to snap out of its offensive funk in this one, and it will have to do so without Erik Cole. The scoring winger is expected to miss 4-6 weeks with a fractured left leg. The injury was suffered due to a collision with Boston Bruins defenseman Dennis Wideman on Saturday. Without Cole, expect the 'Canes to go with a top line of Eric Staal, Sergei Samsonov and Tuomo Ruutu.
"We're going to face this whether it's Erik Cole or whoever," coach Paul Maurice said. "We're going to lose guys over the course of the year. We talked about depth over the summer and adding guys, and we feel like we have enough players to play with a strong offensive game."
Who's Hot: Martin St. Louis got off to a tremendous start for the Lightning, as he scored a pair of goals just 5:14 apart during the second period of Saturday's loss. St. Louis has tallied 30 goals or more five times in his career. Staal and Scott Walker have scored the only goals for Carolina thus far, while Ruutu has fired nine shots on goal.
Injury Report: As previously stated, Cole (leg) will not play for the Hurricanes and likely will not return until November. Lightning defenseman Kurtis Foster is expected to miss up to a week with a lower-body injury.
Stat Pack: Carolina had gone 0-for-13 on the power play to start the season until Staal scored in the third period on Saturday in Boston. With the likes of Hedman and Mattias Ohlund now on board, Tampa Bay hopes to vastly improve its team defense after finishing 28th in the League in goals allowed last season. That trend continued in the Lightning's first game of the new season in Atlanta.
Puck Drop: It's another tough task for Carolina, as it will have to contend with Tampa Bay's tremendous amount of skill up front. It's imperative the Hurricanes get off to a good start after a poor showing in their first two games. After a strong second half of last season, it will be interesting to see if second-year pro Steven Stamkos can carry that momentum into the new campaign in Tampa Bay.
-- Brian Compton, NHL.com