Hurricanes-Lightning Preview

While Steven Stamkos still remains sidelined, the Tampa Bay

Lightning are otherwise getting closer to full strength.

They’re also starting to put some wins together after a bit of a

rough patch.

The Lightning try to stay hot Saturday night against the

visiting Carolina Hurricanes, who have struggled in this series of

late.

Tampa Bay (21-11-3) has followed a 3-5-3 stretch by winning four

of five, including three straight for the first time in almost six

weeks. Defenseman Victor Hedman was one of 11 players to record at

least one point in Thursday’s 4-2 victory over Nashville, posting

an assist in his first game back since missing six with a

lower-body injury.

“Usually when we’d come off after a game there would be a whole

row of suits,” said coach Jon Cooper, whose team continues to play

without Stamkos (broken leg) and Keith Aulie (fractured hand). “But

now there’s only a couple guys, so that’s a good sign that we’re

getting our guys back.”

Martin St. Louis scored his team best-tying 14th goal while

Jean-Philippe Cote notched an assist in his first game since

getting recalled from the AHL on Wednesday. Thursday also marked

Cote’s first NHL contest since an eight-game stint with Montreal in

2005-06.

“Whenever you have new guys in the lineup, especially Hedman on

the power play, that’s great,” Alex Killorn, who had a goal and an

assist, told the team’s official website. “Cote brings a ton of

energy and is a guy who works so hard and all that comes into play

and helps a ton.”

The Lightning improved to 15-1-1 when scoring first, among the

best records in the NHL.

“We’ve been finding out in this league getting the lead is

huge,” Cooper said.

Tampa Bay, which has allowed four goals during its three-game

winning streak, is 19-2-2 when allowing two or fewer.

“They’re playing good hockey,” Predators coach Barry Trotz said

of Tampa Bay. “They play a real high-pace game.”

The Lightning have also dominated the Hurricanes (14-14-7) since

the start of last season, taking five of six meetings by a combined

23-7 score. Tampa Bay won 3-0 in Carolina on Nov. 1 behind goals

from Hedman, Killorn and Stamkos.

St. Louis, who notched two assists in that game, has 36 points

over a 25-game stretch in the series.

The Hurricanes are coming off Friday’s 4-2 loss to Washington,

dropping to 1-2-2 in their last five. Jordan Staal and Riley Nash

both scored for Carolina, which outshot the Capitals 41-29 but

allowed a season-high three power-play goals.

“Five-on-5, we were all over them,” captain Eric Staal said. “We

were the better team, 5-on-5. But three power-play goals, you can’t

let that happen. That’s not good enough, obviously, and that’s how

you lose games.”

Eric Staal, who has 19 points in his last 17 games despite

coming up empty Friday, has just three in his last seven against

the Lightning. The Hurricanes are 3-7-3 this season when he fails

to record one.

Tampa Bay’s Anders Lindback made 28 saves against Nashville, but

Ben Bishop could be back in goal Saturday. Bishop ranks among the

NHL leaders with 18 wins and a 1.96 goals-against average.

Bishop, 11-2-0 at home, has allowed two goals or fewer in eight

consecutive games there. He’s shut out Carolina in each of his two

matchups in the series, making 31 saves last month and a

career-high 45 in a 5-0 win April 4.