Preview: Lightning at Hurricanes
Two inconsistent teams will break a tie atop the Southeast Division standings when the Tampa Bay Lightning visit the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday. The Lightning start a critical stretch with six road games in the next seven after dropping a 4-2 decision to the Boston Bruins at home on Thursday. Tampa Bay continues to lead the league in scoring, but has produced only three power-play goals in the last 30 attempts after a red-hot start.The Lightning has won five times in their last six trips to Carolina, including a 4-1 triumph on Jan. 22. The Hurricanes have followed a 5-0-1 stretch with two straight losses, missing several key players including second-leading scorer Jeff Skinner. Carolina, which plays six of the next nine at home, will look to captain Eric Staal who has 29 goals and 60 points in 54 career games against the Lightning.TV: 7 p.m. ET, SunSports (Tampa), FSN Carolina (Carolina).ABOUT THE LIGHTNING (8-7-1): Tampa Bay must find its game on the road, where it is 2-4-0. It won't be easy with two trips to Pittsburgh and games at the New York Rangers, New Jersey and Boston within the next seven contests. Reigning Rocket Richard trophy winner Steven Stamkos has warmed up again with four goals in his last three games and linemate Teddy Purcell has seven points in the last five contests. Rookie Alexander Killorn, who has three points in his first six NHL games, has joined Nate Thompson and Tom Pyatt to form a solid third line for the Lightning in the last few games. ABOUT THE HURRICANES (8-6-1): Carolina has been without two of its top defensemen Tim Gleason and Joni Pitkanen in the last three games because of injuries. Both practiced Friday and are day-to-day. Skinner, who has nine goals in 11 career games against Tampa Bay, is out indefinitely with a concussion. Staal, normally a slow starter, has eight goals,18 points and is plus-13 and Jiri Tlusty is raising his game with two goals each in three of the last five games. Backup goalie Dan Ellis is expected to start against his former team. Ellis is 3-1-0 in four starts with a 1.74 goals against average and .943 save percentage.OVERTIME1. Tampa Bay LW Cory Conacher led rookies with 15 points going into Friday's games.2. Carolina has not lost three consecutive games since Nov. 23 to Dec. 6, 2011.3. Lightning RW Adam Hall has won 28 of 38 faceoffs in the last five games and is a team-best 60 percent on the season.PREDICTION: Lightning 4, Hurricanes 3
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