Hurricanes (34-29-10) at Lightning (39-23-11) at 7:30 p.m.
The division rivals have completed only half their season series so far, with each team undefeated at home and Tampa holding a 2-1 lead. They will now play each other three times these last two weeks of the regular season, starting with a home-and-home Friday and Saturday. They will end their seasons playing each other.
The Lightning look to climb out of their slump against yet another desperate team. The Canes are only three points behind the Sabres for eighth place and the final playoff slot. They are also winners of their last two as they try to keep the hope alive as the season winds down.
Tampa currently sits in 5th place, bearing down on a first round match up with the Pittsburgh Penguins. As mentioned in our breakdown yesterday, that is not a favorable one for the Bolts. The division title is nearly out of reach unless they turn things around immediately. They are also in jeopardy of falling to sixth or seventh with how the Rangers and Habs are playing.
Simon Gagne has returned to the Tampa lineup, but Steve Downie and Ryan Malone remain out with injuries. The injuries have definitely effected the team, and it has made it more difficult for the team to turn around. Slumps are broken by gritty play, and two of the team’s best grinders in Downie and Malone are injured.
The Lightning also have to focus down the stretch on preparing for playoff style hockey. It will be a difficult transition for them, since most of the team has never been to the playoffs, and they certainly haven’t been there together. It will take some adjusting, and the more work they do now, the better it will be in that first round.