Since Steven Stamkos came into the league two seasons ago, he’s
generally come up short against the Carolina Hurricanes. Eric
Staal, meanwhile, has dominated the Tampa Bay Lightning in those
The two high-scoring centers meet for the first time this season
Monday night when the surging Southeast Division rivals open their
six-game season series.
Carolina (15-12-4) has won four straight and Tampa Bay (18-10-4)
three in a row heading into their first meeting. The Hurricanes
went 3-2-1 against the Lightning last season after winning all six
matchups the season before when Stamkos was a rookie.
Stamkos is second in the league with 25 goals behind Sidney
Crosby, and he’ll be playing on a night when the first 5,000 fans
will be given his bobblehead.
However, Stamkos has just one goal and three assists in 11 games
against the Hurricanes. He’s got at least six goals and 11 points
against every other Southeast rival.
The Lightning, meanwhile, have been unable to slow down Staal
over the last two seasons. The Hurricanes top scorer has 11 goals
in that span against Tampa Bay for his highest total against any
team to go along with six assists.
Both centers turned in strong efforts in their last games.
Staal had the 12th hat trick of his career and second of the
season Saturday in a 4-2 win over Anaheim. His 33 points are 10
more than any teammate.
“Staal has the ability to take the game over,” goalie Cam Ward
said. “He really picked up his play when we were down one goal and
put the team on his shoulders. There’s a reason why he’s one of the
more dominant players in the league, and you got to see it.”
Stamkos had a goal and an assist Saturday in a 3-1 victory at
Buffalo, giving him six points in his last four games.
Tampa Bay is 5-2-1 in its last eight, including four one-goal
“I think we’re taking pride the last couple weeks in our
defensive play,” Stamkos said.
The Lightning rotate Dan Ellis and Mike Smith in goal. Ellis won
his lone career start against Carolina with Nashville in 2008 while
Smith is 0-5-3 with a 3.30 goals-against average in eight starts
against the Hurricanes.
Ward, meanwhile, is the clear No. 1 for Carolina, going 2-0-1
with a 1.83 GAA in his last four starts. He’s 10-4-0 with a 2.06
GAA in his last 14 starts against the Lightning.
“When we have needed (Ward) to make the saves, he has,” Staal
said. “He’s one of the best in the league, and we expect that every
night, and take it for granted some nights.”
Ward and the Hurricanes may have to worry more about Martin St.
Louis than Stamkos. St. Louis has six points in his last four
games, and eight in his last seven versus Carolina.
The winger had a goal and two assists Saturday for Tampa Bay,
5-0-1 in its last six at home.
Carolina last won five straight during a seven-game run Feb.