Series (Game 2 of 6)

Tampa Bay leads 4-2

Game 1: Monday, December 20th
Game 2: Saturday, January 15th
Game 3: Saturday, February 12th
Game 4: Friday, March 25th
Game 5: Saturday, March 26th
Game 6: Saturday, April 9th

Lightning 4

(26-15-5, 57 pts)

Hurricanes 6

(22-16-6, 50 pts)

7:00 PM ET, January 15, 2011

PNC Arena, Raleigh, North Carolina

1 2 3 T
TB 2 1 14
CAR 2 3 16

E. Staal (Hurricanes - C): Goals: 1, Assists: 2

E. Cole (Hurricanes - RW): Goals: 0, Assists: 3

J. Jokinen (Hurricanes - LW): Goals: 2, Assists: 1

Lightning-Hurricanes Preview


The Southeast Division hasn't been much of a contest the last two seasons, but it's looking far more competitive around the midpoint of 2010-11.

Big improvements from the Carolina Hurricanes and the Tampa Bay Lightning are two major reasons.

While the Lightning look to strengthen their hold on first place, the Hurricanes hope to continue their surge and avenge last month's lopsided loss Saturday night in Raleigh.

Washington won the Southeast by a comfortable margin each of the last two seasons, while both Tampa Bay and Carolina finished with 80 points -- 41 behind the Capitals -- in 2009-10.

But the Lightning (26-14-5) currently hold a two-point lead atop the division thanks in large part to a pair of shutout victories over Washington this month, while Carolina (21-16-6) is also challenging for a postseason berth after a 6-1-2 stretch in its last nine games.

On Jan. 15 last season, Tampa Bay was 18-18-10 while the Hurricanes were 14-25-7.

The Lightning are still searching for more consistency after alternating wins and losses in their last six. They failed to build on Wednesday's 3-0 victory over the Capitals, losing 5-2 to lowly New Jersey on Friday night -- allowing the Devils to snap an 11-game road losing streak.

While newcomer Dwayne Roloson has two shutouts in five starts since joining Tampa Bay in a trade from the New York Islanders, he's also been pulled twice, as he was Friday after allowing four goals on nine first-period shots.

"It certainly can't start like that (Saturday)," said coach Guy Boucher, who didn't sound particularly optimistic about facing the Hurricanes.

"I'll be honest, Carolina's red-hot right now in the league, they didn't play (Friday), and I pushed some of our guys," Boucher said. "We left quite a bit of energy there in these last two periods trying to come back."

Dan Ellis replaced Roloson, stopping 15 of 16 shots, and may get the start Saturday. Ellis is 2-0-0 with 1.51 goals-against average in two career starts against Carolina.

The Lightning have won their last five intradivision games, including a 5-1 home victory over Carolina on Dec. 20.

Martin St. Louis had a goal and two assists in that contest, which Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward missed with a mild infection. Ward is 9-3-0 with 1.98 GAA in his last 12 starts against the Lightning.

A prolific offense has carried Carolina lately, with rookie Jeff Skinner contributing seven goals and Tuomo Ruutu adding 13 points in the last nine games. The Hurricanes have at least four goals in each of their six victories during that stretch.

Ruutu and Skinner each scored in Thursday's 3-2 loss at Buffalo, and coach Paul Maurice is hopeful that Carolina's first regulation defeat since Dec. 26 is simply a bump in the road.

"We've been on a real good streak. We've played some good hockey," Maurice said. "It was a road game. We're happy to leave it here."

Returning to Raleigh may help the Hurricanes. Tampa Bay star Steven Stamkos -- tied with Sidney Crosby for the NHL lead with 32 goals -- has no goals and one assist in five games at the RBC Center, where the Lightning had totaled 13 goals while dropping eight straight before their most recent visit, a 3-2 victory last Jan. 18.

Tampa Bay captain Vincent Lecavalier has still managed 32 points -- his most in any opponent's arena -- in 30 games in Raleigh. Lecavalier, though, is in the midst of an eight-game goal drought, posting a minus-8 rating in that stretch.