Tracking the Storm

Gameday: Canes vs. Tampa Bay

Tuesday, 10.6.2009 / 11:23 AM ET / Tracking the Storm
By Paul Branecky
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Gameday: Canes vs. Tampa Bay
The Canes open divisional play tonight against a team that couldn’t beat them in six tries last season, the Tampa Bay Lightning. Joni Pitkanen will make his season debut for the Canes tonight in place of Jay Harrison, with Tim Conboy also entering the lineup.

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Carolina swept the season series with Tampa in 2008-09, as the Lightning eventually finished 14th in the Eastern Conference. However, with the additions of Mattias Ohlund, second overall pick Victor Hedman and Alex Tanguay and a healthy Mike Smith in goal, they should be a more formidable opponent in the new season. ESPN even has them as a playoff team this season, finishing ahead of the Canes in the Southeast.

“It’s going to be another tough challenge,” said Canes goaltender Cam Ward. “The Lightning is a team that if you look at their lineup has definitely improved from where they were last year.”

Tampa has only played one game this season, a 6-3 loss in Atlanta on Saturday night. While that opening result doesn’t suggest fortunes have turned around in that particular part of Florida, the Lightning still have the offensive weapons to give the Hurricanes problems if their penalty kill doesn’t improve upon it’s current 53.8 percent record. Tampa recently hired Adam Oates as an assistant coach, where he’s working closely with the power play in a Ron Francis-type capacity.

Conversely, the Canes may have an easier time generating offense than they did in their first two games if the Lightning can’t shore up their defensive zone. Six goals to the Thrashers is a little much, even if at least one of them was a bit fluky. Also, defenseman Kurtis Foster is out with a lower body injury.

In a somewhat unusual move that can likely be chalked up to early-season bonding on the road, they came to Raleigh immediately after that game and practiced at the RBC Center each of the last two days. That leaves them plenty familiar with the Canes’ current situation.

"They are not happy at all," Head Coach Rick Tocchet told the St. Pete Times. "Like (Lightning associate coach) Rick Wilson said, 'We may be coming into a hornet's nest.'"

In response to the Canes’ plan of being more tenacious on the puck in all facets of their game, Tocchet added, “When teams play aggressive, you have to push back. That's our motto tomorrow."

Could it be yet another rough game for Carolina, which easily leads the league with 71 total penalty minutes thus far?

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - NYR 82 53 22 7 252 192 113
2 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 221 189 110
3 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 262 211 108
4 x - WSH 82 45 26 11 242 203 101
5 x - NYI 82 47 28 7 252 230 101
6 x - DET 82 43 25 14 235 221 100
7 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 238 215 99
8 x - PIT 82 43 27 12 221 210 98
9 BOS 82 41 27 14 213 211 96
10 FLA 82 38 29 15 206 223 91
11 CBJ 82 42 35 5 236 250 89
12 PHI 82 33 31 18 215 234 84
13 NJD 82 32 36 14 181 216 78
14 CAR 82 30 41 11 188 226 71
15 TOR 82 30 44 8 211 262 68
16 BUF 82 23 51 8 161 274 54

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
E. Staal 77 23 31 -13 54
J. Faulk 82 15 34 -19 49
E. Lindholm 81 17 22 -23 39
V. Rask 80 11 22 -14 33
J. Skinner 77 18 13 -24 31
N. Gerbe 78 10 18 -14 28
R. Nash 68 8 17 -10 25
J. Staal 46 6 18 -6 24
J. Liles 57 2 20 -9 22
J. McClement 82 7 14 -7 21
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 22 24 5 .910 2.40
A. Khudobin 8 17 6 .900 2.72