Game 50 Preview: Tampa Bay Lightning @ Carolina Hurricanes

With the Sharks overcoming a two-goal deficit and Martin St. Louis’ historic four-goal night yesterday, it was yet another lost opportunity for the Lightning which dashed off to face the Hurricanes this afternoon and thereby finish a grueling five games in seven days stretch before some much needed rest and recuperation in advance of their next match on Thursday.

Tampa Bay’s radio play-by-play broadcaster, Dave Mishkin, took stock of the conflicting perspectives possible in the aftermath of yesterday’s loss:

There’s no shame in losing a game to the San Jose Sharks. They are one of the top teams in the NHL and a Stanley Cup contender. But this was an extremely frustrating outcome for the Lightning. They failed to win a game in which Marty St. Louis tallied a franchise-tying four goals.  And they squandered the aforementioned two-goal second period lead.

That’s the long and short of it. Having points which would have made the Lightning’s path a bit easier to traverse there for the taking but not earned has been the story of late for Tampa Bay, which has been treading water over the past ten matches. Fortunately, the club played well enough in the first half of the season it should be no worse for the wear with another strong run over the next ten games that lead into the Olympic break. Hence the optimism: the Bolts, still missing one of the league’s premier talents, gave one of the Western Conference’s best clubs as good as it got. It was a benchmark game and, despite the result, the process was full of positives and should prove a confidence booster moving forward.

Today’s opponent, Carolina, began its own week-long marathon yesterday by grinding out a win against the Panthers to end a two-game skid. The Hurricanes are still facing an uphill battle but sniffing around the playoff picture again after going 6-3-1 in the last ten contests. The team has done well for itself in the wake of unloading Kevin Westgarth and swapping Tim Gleason for John-Michael Liles: it has won five of seven since adding Liles, who’s been on the ice for eight 5v5 goals for and just two against so far with his new employer. Of course, he and his teammates aren’t likely to continue shooting 19.4% and the netminders aren’t likely to keep saving 97% of the shots thrown their way with Liles on the ice but, still, Carolina has to be pleased with the early return from the deal.

As a whole, the Hurricanes are a clear step down in competition from the Sharks — Carolina has lacked consistent offensive punch this season, struggling to drive play at even-strength while also not having been particularly dangerous on the power play — but that doesn’t make Tampa Bay’s former divisional rival a cakewalk.

The offensive decline seems to trace largely to steep drop-offs in production from Alex Semin (20 points in 35 games played this season; 44 in 44 last season), Eric Staal (37 points in 44 games played currently, 53 in 48 last season) and Jiri Tlusty (10 points in 39 games played this season; 38 in 48 games last season), all of whom have been thorns in the Tampa Bay’s side at various points in the past and cannot be discounted for any single match. Also, Carolina has been one of the most disciplined clubs this season in terms of staying out of the sin-bin and, when it has had to kill penalties, it has proven dangerous by scoring a league-best nine goals to account for roughly a quarter of all goals scored while its been shorthanded, another league-high.

It will be interesting to see how much energy each team, especially the Lightning, can summon and the prevailing pace of play. Many of Tampa Bay’s players ought to be quite fatigued at this point so a bit of tinkering with the lineup, perhaps inserting one or both of B.J. Crombeen and Tom Pyatt for some fresh legs up front, wouldn’t be a surprise.

SEASON SERIES

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NOTES

STANDINGS

LIGHTNING
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HURRICANES
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ACTIVE ROSTERS

LIGHTNING
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HURRICANES
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STATPACK

LIGHTNING

RANKINGS

TEAM POSSESSION & SCORING RATES
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TEAM POSSESSION, SCORING & SHOOTING PERCENTAGES
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TOTALS

TEAM POSSESSION & SCORING
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GOALTENDING (ON-ICE)
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PLAYER SCORING
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RATES

TEAM POSSESSION & SCORING
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GOALTENDING (ON-ICE)
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PERCENTAGES

TEAM POSSESSION, SCORING & SHOOTING
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GOALTENDING (ON-ICE)
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HURRICANES

RANKINGS

TEAM POSSESSION & SCORING RATES
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TEAM POSSESSION, SCORING & SHOOTING PERCENTAGES
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TOTALS

TEAM POSSESSION & SCORING
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GOALTENDING (ON-ICE)
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PLAYER SCORING
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RATES


TEAM POSSESSION & SCORING
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GOALTENDING (ON-ICE)
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PERCENTAGES

TEAM POSSESSION, SCORING & SHOOTING
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GOALTENDING (ON-ICE)
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Team stats cited from Extra Skater

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