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Gameday: Canes Look for Strong Start

Saturday, 02.23.2013 / 12:50 PM ET / Tracking the Storm
By Michael Smith
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Gameday: Canes Look for Strong Start
Another night, and another divisional test for the Carolina Hurricanes.

Michael Smith
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This time, first place in the Southeast Division is on the line, as the 8-6-1 (17 points) Canes are even with the 8-7-1 (17 points) Tampa Bay Lightning. For now, Carolina holds the top spot in the division and third place in the Eastern Conference by virtue of games played.

“I’m excited for tonight,” head coach Kirk Muller said. “These are the games that both sides are saying, ‘Hey, if we want to be on top, you’ve got to earn it by beating the teams in your division.’”

Tonight marks the second of five meetings between the two teams. The Lightning spoiled the Hurricanes’ home opener on Jan. 22, winning 4-1, and Tampa Bay has taken five of the last seven at PNC Arena.

It’s often mentioned as a key to victory but perhaps may be vitally important tonight: a strong first period effort from the Hurricanes. The Canes have been outscored 17-7 in the opening frame this season, scoring first in just four games (3-0-1 record) and leading after the first 20 minutes only once (1-0-0 record). Tampa Bay, on the other hand, has outscored opponents 18-11 in the first period. The team is 6-1-0 when scoring first and a perfect 7-0-0 when leading heading into the first intermission.

That said, scoring first isn’t the chief aspect of a strong start.

“Yeah, we’d love to score first, but I think it’s more come out with energy, play hard and play our game in the first period that we’re looking for,” Muller said.

“When you come out, especially as the home team, you want to let the other team know that it’s not going to be an easy game for them,” said defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti. “You come out hard in the first 10 minutes, and you set the tone. You don’t necessarily have to score, but you let them know that it’s going to be a long night, that you’re going to make things happen offensively and be tough on them defensively, as well.”

In the Lightning’s 4-1 win in Raleigh in late January, they jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period. Though the Canes cut the lead in half in the second period, Tampa Bay potted two the in the third to seal the victory.

Carolina got a timely goal from Jiri Tlusty late in the first period on Thursday against Winnipeg, equaling the score at one, which was crucial in terms of momentum and the team’s game plan.

“We want to get momentum,” Muller said. “Teams obviously change their style when you’re trailing as opposed to winning, whether it’s who you use on your bench, who you play more and match-ups.”

“We just have to come out and make sure we’re ready from the drop of the puck,” Sanguinetti said.

Andreas Nodl will be the healthy extra for the Hurricanes tonight, as Jeremy Welsh works his way back into the lineup as the fourth-line center. The defensive corps remains the same, as Tim Gleason and Joni Pitkanen are day-to-day with lower-body concerns.

Dan Ellis, who played for the Lightning in 2010-11, will get the nod in net tonight, the second game of a three-games-in-four-days set and the first in a back-to-back situation. Muller said it’s undecided who will man the crease on Sunday night in New York.

“We’ve got to evaluate it just like the rest of our lineup,” he said. “We need to put the best group together to win that night.”



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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 WSH 53 40 9 4 175 120 84
2 FLA 55 32 17 6 153 127 70
3 NYR 55 31 18 6 157 140 68
4 DET 55 28 18 9 138 134 65
5 NYI 53 29 18 6 150 131 64
6 TBL 54 30 20 4 144 130 64
7 BOS 54 29 19 6 159 148 64
8 PIT 54 28 19 7 139 136 63
9 NJD 55 27 21 7 122 123 61
10 CAR 55 24 21 10 131 143 58
11 MTL 56 27 25 4 151 151 58
12 PHI 53 24 20 9 127 138 57
13 OTT 56 25 25 6 157 173 56
14 BUF 56 22 28 6 131 155 50
15 CBJ 56 22 28 6 140 173 50
16 TOR 53 19 25 9 122 149 47

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Faulk 54 15 19 -13 34
J. Skinner 55 19 12 -3 31
V. Rask 53 12 19 0 31
J. Staal 55 12 19 7 31
K. Versteeg 54 10 21 1 31
E. Staal 55 9 21 1 30
E. Lindholm 55 8 16 -9 24
A. Nestrasil 48 8 12 0 20
J. Nordstrom 44 5 10 2 15
R. Hainsey 55 3 11 -12 14
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 15 11 7 .909 2.34
E. Lack 9 10 3 .901 2.74
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