The Tampa Bay Lightning rode a perfect homestand into the All-Star Break and enter the second half of the season with the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
Following the midseason layoff, the Lightning will hit the road Tuesday night looking for a 10th win in their last 11 meetings with the Carolina Hurricanes.
Tampa Bay (30-14-4) strung together three wins prior to the break, topping Edmonton, Colorado and, most recently, Vancouver 4-1 last Tuesday. Ben Bishop stopped 27 shots as the Lightning boosted their league-leading goals per game average to 3.21.
The win streak followed a two-game trip in which Tampa Bay allowed 11 total goals in losses to Philadelphia and Boston.
"We didn’t get any points on that road trip, and we knew we had a few games at home before the break," defenseman Jason Garrison told the Lightning’s official website. "That’s the good thing about our sport is we play often enough you can forget a couple bad games or a bad game and get right into the next one."
Forward Alex Killorn had his first career two-goal game in the win over the Canucks, and he has nine points in as many career games against Carolina.
Only Steven Stamkos and Jonathan Drouin took part in the NHL’s All-Star festivities as leading scorer Tyler Johnson pulled out of the game with a lower-body injury. But he showed up for the weekend, meaning he’s eligible to play in the Lightning’s first game after the break.
Stamkos scored two goals in the exhibition while the 19-year-old Drouin won the fastest skater event in the Skills Competition.
The All-Star experience could serve as a much-needed boost for Drouin. The rookie has two goals through 37 games, and was designated as a healthy scratch in Tampa Bay’s win over Edmonton on Jan. 15.
"It was a great weekend for me," Drouin said.
Carolina (16-25-5) also enters Tuesday’s matchup following consecutive victories, as the Hurricanes swept a two-game road trip against Ottawa and Toronto to improve to 6-2-1 since the start of the new year.
"It’s a great feeling right now. We’re in games, and we have chances to win. It’s more fun winning," forward Jiri Tlusty told Carolina’s official site. "I’m excited to get back (after the break) and get to work."
The Hurricanes might not be too thrilled to see their first opponent out of the break. They’ve lost nine of 10 to the Lightning while being outscored 35-14, and Bishop is 5-0-0 with a 1.19 goals-against average against Carolina – including a 2-1 home win Dec. 27.
Carolina’s goaltending situation isn’t as clear. Longtime starter Cam Ward has appeared in 31 games, but Anton Khudobin was in net for the past two wins.
Khudobin has won his previous five starts while allowing seven total goals.
"He’s a good goaltender, a good man and guys like playing in front of him," coach Bill Peters said. "We have good depth at that position right now."