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Lightning shoot for .500 mark as they face Hurricanes

by Corey Masisak /
HURRICANES (13-20-6) at LIGHTNING (16-17-3)


Last 10:
Carolina 5-3-2; Tampa Bay 5-4-1

Season Series:
The two teams have split the first two matchups of the season. Carolina won the most recent game, Nov. 1 at St. Pete Times Forum, but the Lightning had prevailed in the three previous meetings by a combined score of 15-5.

Big Story: Both teams will try to build on big comebacks in their previous game and try to eek back into the fringes of playoff contention in the Eastern Conference.

Team Scope:

It might only be baby steps, but Carolina is starting to make some progress with new coach Kirk Muller. After losing the first four games of his tenure, the Hurricanes have collected points in seven of 10 (by comparison, they finished the Paul Maurice era with an ugly 3-9-1 stretch).

Carolina has still lost two-thirds of its games this season, and only the Columbus Blue Jackets have more regulation defeats. Yet the Hurricanes could be seven points back of eighth place in the Eastern Conference with a win against the Lightning, and it might not be too late for them to make a push. Captain Eric Staal led the comeback against Toronto, and a hot streak from him could revive hope in The Triangle.

Lightning: Like the Hurricanes, Tampa Bay trailed an Eastern Canadian opponent Tuesday by two goals and like Carolina, the Lightning completed a surprising comeback to earn a 4-3 victory. It was the fifth time the Lightning have won a game this season when trailing by two goals or more.

"It seems like we're finding ways to win games now, whereas before it seemed like we were finding ways to lose games," Steven Stamkos said.

Who's Hot: Tuomo Ruutu has 5 goals in the past seven games for the Hurricanes. … Stamkos has 7 goals and 3 assists in his past seven games and now leads the NHL with 23 tallies.

Injury Report:
Carolina remains without leading scoring Jeff Skinner and minute-munching defenseman Joni Pitkanen because of concussions. Goaltender Brian Boucher is out with a lower-body injury, but Justin Peters was great in his first start of the season for the team Tuesday in Pittsburgh -- he stopped 36 of 37 shots in the first two periods before the Penguins solved him for three goals in the third.

The Lightning have been without defenseman Mattias Ohlund all season because of surgery on both knees, while countryman Victor Hedman missed the win against Montreal because of an upper-body injury. Tampa Bay has also missed forwards wing Ryan Shannon and center Nate Thompson because of lower-body issues.

Stat Pack:
Both of these teams have struggled compared to the rest of the League when scoring the first goal. Tampa Bay has won 10 of 18 games when grabbing a 1-0 advantage, which is good for 26th in the NHL. Carolina is right behind the Lightning, having won only nine of the 18 times the Hurricanes opened the scoring.

Puck Drop:
Tampa Bay forward JT Wyman had a night to remember Tuesday. Wyman notched his first career goal and first multi-point contest in the NHL during the team's 4-3 victory.

Better yet, it came against the team that drafted him -- Wyman was selected by the Canadiens in the 2004 Entry Draft.

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