Oct 29, 2013; Newark, NJ, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Ben Bishop (30) makes a save during the second period of their game against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Preview: Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Carolina Hurricanes

The Tampa Bay Lightning suffered a tough loss in Jersey at the hands of the New Jersey Devils. Unfortunately, I feel like rather than being beaten by an opponent, that they were beaten by themselves. Tonight, the Bolts need to shake off the dust of the past and put on their game faces as they travel to the PNC Arena in Raleigh to go head-to-head with the Carolina Hurricanes.

One can only imagine that warrior captain Martin St. Louis and center Steven Stamkos will lead the charge tonight in Raleigh.

Stamkos currently leads the Lightning in all things scoring. He has acquired a well-balanced 9 goals and 9 assists for a total of 18 points. He also maintains a plus-6 rating, second only to St. Louis with a plus-7.

Right now, the standout for the Hurricanes is left wing Jeff Skinner. He has 3 goals and 6 assists for a total of 9 points with a plus-8 rating.

At this point in the season, the Lightning and the Hurricanes have two very different situations on their hands. The Lightning are currently 8-4-0 this season with 16 points, sitting at 4th in the Eastern Conference. On the other side of the ice, the Hurricanes are 4-5-3 with 11 points, placing them in 7th in the Conference.

According to the tale of the tape, the only thing preventing the Lightning from winning tonight’s encounter would be themselves.

Bolts Hurricanes
Goals Per Game 3.17 2.17
Goals Against Per Game 2.75 2.83
Shots on Goal Per Game 26.33 30.42
Penalty Minutes Per Game 15.67 9.33
Power Play Goals 12 8
Power Play Percentage 24% 15.4%
Penalty Kill Percentage 83.3% 79.5%

 

There are going to be three keys to tonight’s game.

The first of which is staying out of the penalty box. One of the Bolts’ biggest Achilles heels this season has been unnecessary penalties. There are going to be times where sitting in the box for between 2-5 minutes is going to be completely unavoidable; however, it is the times that are avoidable that are going to make the Lightning sink or swim. While they do have a strong penalty kill, you shouldn’t continually put your special teams in a position where they have to tire themselves out early just to keep the team from sinking.

The second is going to be the death of the passing game. This season the Bolts have had this very nasty habit of overpassing the puck in lieu of taking shots on goal. This has led to more turnovers than I would care to think about. While the Bolts have more than certainly solved their goaltender issues, and the defense has made great strides in stepping up their game this season, again, you can’t lean on any one group for too long before they start to crack. The entire team, both offense and defense are going to need to be on point in order to continue their success this season.

The third and final key to tonight’s game is going to be capitalization. The Lightning have been strong on the Power Play this season, scoring on 12 of the 50 power play opportunities; however, this number could be larger if they would start taking more shots on goal and making sure that each and every one of them are in the right place at the right time. I can’t tell you how many times a player has successfully brought the puck down the ice through double coverage only to make it to the other side with no one to help them, thus resulting in yet another turnover. If the Bolts can get on top of this, I think their scoring will skyrocket.

From the looks of things tonight, the Hurricanes will be firing on Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop. So far this season, Bishop is 7-2 in the 9 appearances he has made this season with a GAA of 2.41 and a Save Percentage of .914.

Carolina is in quite the predicament when it comes to goaltenders. Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward is looking at being out 2 more weeks, and Anton Khudobin has been placed on Injured Reserve with lower body injuries.

More than likely, the Bolts will be firing at either Justin Peters or Mike Murphy, both of which were brought up from the minors in light of Ward and Khudobin’s injuries.

The Canes will also be without left wing Jeff Skinner, who is expected to sit out this weekend while he heals from Upper Body Injuries.

The puck drops are 7:00 p.m. If you need information on where to watch/listen to tonight’s game, check out all the details right here.

Will the Bolts be able to get back on track tonight, or will the Hurricanes deliver the Bolts the start of their first losing streak this season? I guess we’ll all just have to watch and find out.

 

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Tags: Carolina Hurricanes NHL Tampa Bay Lightning

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