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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 WSH 51 38 9 4 166 114 80
2 FLA 53 31 16 6 143 118 68
3 NYR 53 30 18 5 150 135 65
4 TBL 52 29 19 4 138 123 62
5 BOS 52 28 18 6 151 137 62
6 DET 53 27 18 8 133 131 62
7 PIT 52 27 18 7 138 132 61
8 NYI 51 27 18 6 143 127 60
9 NJD 54 26 21 7 120 122 59
10 CAR 54 24 21 9 130 142 57
11 MTL 54 26 24 4 143 143 56
12 OTT 54 25 23 6 153 166 56
13 PHI 51 23 19 9 121 133 55
14 BUF 53 21 26 6 120 139 48
15 TOR 51 19 23 9 117 140 47
16 CBJ 54 21 28 5 135 168 47

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Faulk 54 15 19 -13 34
J. Skinner 54 19 12 -3 31
V. Rask 52 12 19 0 31
J. Staal 54 12 19 8 31
K. Versteeg 53 10 21 1 31
E. Staal 54 9 21 0 30
E. Lindholm 54 8 16 -9 24
A. Nestrasil 47 7 12 0 19
J. Nordstrom 43 5 9 2 14
R. Hainsey 54 3 11 -11 14
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 15 11 6 .908 2.38
E. Lack 9 10 3 .901 2.74
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