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Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Carolina Hurricanes @NHLdotcom
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GAME: Tampa Bay Lightning (39-17-8-5) at Carolina Hurricanes (22-29-13-4).

TIME: Wednesday, 7 p.m. EST.

The Tampa Bay Lightning seem to accomplish something new with each game.

Wednesday's matchup against the Carolina Hurricanes gives the Southeast Division champion Lightning an opportunity to extend their point streak to an NHL season-best 17 games.

Tampa Bay maintained possession of the league's best record with a 1-1 tie at Detroit on Monday.

Fredrik Modin scored with 7:39 left in regulation and Nikolai Khabibulin made 28 saves for the Lightning, who clinched their second straight division title, assuring themselves of no worse than the third seed in the Eastern Conference.

"It's another stepping stone," Tampa Bay's Martin St. Louis said. "We've got to keep going in the same direction."

Although the Lightning had their franchise-record win streak stopped at eight, they recorded at least a point for the 16th straight game (12-0-2-2), tying Toronto for the longest streak in the NHL this season.

Tampa Bay leads the league with 91 points - one more than Detroit.

"Our goals are set a little higher now," center Tim Taylor said. "Our expectations as players are higher. We came in here and tried to measure ourself against one of the better teams in the league. I'm proud of this team right now."

Center Brad Richards assisted on Modin's goal, giving him six goals and 14 assists during a 12-game point streak. Richards' streak is one shy of the franchise record set by Brian Bradley in 1992-93 and matched by St. Louis this month.

Khabibulin won his eighth straight start Monday and was named NHL defensive player of the week. He went 4-0 with a 1.99 goals-against average and a .927 save percentage with one shutout during the week.

Carolina will miss the playoffs for the second consecutive season after advancing to the Stanley Cup finals in 2001-02.

The Hurricanes have played well lately, gaining points in nine of 11 games (5-2-2-2).

Defenseman Aaron Ward returned to the lineup and scored twice, leading Carolina to a 4-1 victory at Columbus on Monday.

"It was five straight weeks of killer skates - suicide skates. It was nice to get back," said Ward, who missed 19 games with a wrist injury. "I still have a fair amount of room for improvement."

Tampa Bay is 5-0-4 against Carolina since a 4-2 loss on April 10, 2002.

STANDINGS: Lightning - 91 points, 1st place, Southeast Division. Hurricanes - 61 points, 4th place, 30 PB, Southeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Lightning - St. Louis, 32 goals, 48 assists and 80 points; Chris Dingman, 136 PIM. Hurricanes - Josef Vasicek, 16 goals and 35 points; Justin Williams, 24 assists; Jesse Boulerice, 113 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through March 8): Lightning - Power play: 16.7 percent (48 for 287), 13th in NHL. Penalty killing: 84.1 percent (196 for 233), 16th. Hurricanes - Power play: 11.5 percent (36 for 312), 30th. Penalty killing: 82.3 percent (247 for 300), 22nd.

GOALTENDERS: Lightning - Khabibulin (24-15-7, 3 SO, 2.32 GAA); John Grahame (15-7-1, 1, 1.86). Hurricanes - Kevin Weekes (20-25-10, 6, 2.26); Arturs Irbe (2-0-1, 1.62).

SEASON SERIES: Lightning, 2-0-2.

LAST MEETING: Jan. 15; Lightning, 5-4. At Tampa, Fla., St. Louis scored three times and Richards had a goal and two assists during Tampa Bay's five-goal first period.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Lightning - 20-10-4-3 on the road; Hurricanes - 11-14-8-2 at home.

Associated Press
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