Preview: Hurricanes at Lightning
The Carolina Hurricanes put a season-high five-game winning streak to a major test Thursday night when they visit the NHL-best Tampa Bay Lightning, who will attempt to improve to 12-0-0 against Metropolitan Division opponents. The Hurricanes have scored 21 goals during their streak after holding on to edge the New York Islanders 4-3 on the road Tuesday to move within six points of playoff position with two games in hand.
“It’s kind of a snowball effect, just like losing is,” Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour told reporters. “It’s really hard to get out of either one. You obviously want to keep the winning one going. We’re just finding ways to win right now without playing our best. That’s really the key and that’s a good sign. We know we can get better.” Tampa Bay has won four of the last five meetings, including a 4-2 victory Oct. 16, and rebounded from its first regulation loss since Nov. 27 with a 4-0 triumph against Columbus on Tuesday. Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov, who leads the league with 71 points, also recovered from seeing his 12-game point streak end in the 5-2 loss at San Jose on Saturday by registering a goal and an assist in Tuesday’s victory. Kucherov is the 10th player in the league to register 50 assists in 43 team games and the first since 1995-96 while becoming the first player to reach 70 points in the same span since Jaromir Jagr in 1999-2000.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, FS Southeast (Carolina), FS Sun (Tampa Bay)
ABOUT THE HURRICANES (20-17-5): Veteran forward Justin Williams has three goals in the last four games, including the tally that put Carolina ahead for good Tuesday, to pull within one of 300 for his career. Sebastian Aho boasts six of his team-high 45 points in the last four games and fellow forward Teuvo Teravainen recorded five of his 34 in the past four while team’s power play is perking up by going 5-of-10 in the same span. Defensemen Jaccob Slavin (goals in back-to-back games) and Dougie Hamilton (three goals, four-game point streak) have been productive of late.
ABOUT THE LIGHTNING (33-8-2): Andrei Vasilevskiy was named to the All-Star Game Tuesday and went out and validated it later that night, turning aside 31 shots for his 14th career shutout - tying Nikolai Khabibulin for second on the franchise’s all-time list. “It’s a pretty good feeling,” Vasilevskiy told reporters. “Especially considering I haven’t been as consistent as I wanted coming back from my (foot) injury.” Brayden Point scored twice Tuesday to push his team-leading total to 26 and is second on the team with 57 points while captain Steven Stamkos has scored 23 times.
1. Carolina F Greg McKegg has recorded two goals, two assists and a plus-3 rating in three games since being recalled.
2. Tampa Bay D Victor Hedman can pass Pavel Kubina (662) on Thursday for the most games played by a defenseman in franchise history.
3. Hurricanes C Victor Rask needs one assist for 100 in his career after recording three in his last two contests.
PREDICTION: Lightning 5, Hurricanes 2