The Carolina Hurricanes stayed in a groove at the start of a home-heavy stretch of their schedule and will next face a former division rival that’s heading in an opposite direction.
The Hurricanes seek to extend their win streak to four games Sunday while sending the Tampa Bay Lightning to a fifth consecutive defeat.
Carolina (5-6-0) beat Colorado 3-2 on Friday – its first in three home contests this season – in its return from a seven-game trip and will also get to play eight of its next nine on its own ice.
"We’re getting closer," coach Bill Peters said. "We’ve got some traction now, a little bit of confidence. We’ve got both goaltenders going, and I think we’re going in the right direction for sure."
The Hurricanes will try to use that home stretch to their advantage to secure their first four-game win streak since Nov. 1-7, 2014, their longest last season.
"(The win streak) continues to build our confidence," rookie defenseman Brett Pesce said. "Everyone’s in a good mood. Everyone’s flying out there. Everyone’s happy and zipping the puck around. I think it’s going to be good for (Sunday), and hopefully we can continue it."
Tampa Bay (5-5-2) in its midst of playing eight of 10 on the road and will close that out with a four-game trip that begins Sunday. The Lightning also didn’t fare well in back-to-back home dates and were 3-1 losers to Boston on Saturday, giving them two goals over their last four games.
"We expect better from ourselves. Teams aren’t just going to let us go out there and get two points," goaltender Ben Bishop said. "It’s on us. This is maybe what we needed. We’ve got a game (Sunday) so that’s a good thing so we can put this behind us. We have to wake up pretty quick."
Tampa Bay has often performed well in recent matchups with its former Southeast Division foe, taking nine of the past 11. The Lightning had won six straight in Carolina until a 4-2 loss Jan. 27.
Eric Staal scored just 22 seconds into that game, and Justin Faulk had a goal and an assist. Faulk put the Hurricanes ahead for good against the Avalanche on Friday with his fourth goal of the season.
"They’re a very good team. They’re the Eastern Conference champions so we’re playing one of the best teams in the National Hockey League in our building," Peters said. "To me, it’s an important game."
Nikita Kucherov, who scored Tampa Bay’s lone goal Saturday, has four in five career games against the Hurricanes.
With Bishop starting the first of back-to-back games, it’s unclear if he’ll be in net again for the 11th time in the Lightning’s 12 contests. Current backup Kristers Gudlevskis has made the only other start Oct. 24 in Chicago, and Tampa Bay might get its regular backup netminder, Andrei Vasilevskiy, back from vascular surgery for its road trip.
Carolina forward Elias Lindholm is doubtful because of a lower-body injury but Peters indicated that ailment might not keep him out for the long term. The Hurricanes will have plenty of time for Lindholm and their remaining players to rest after this game.
They won’t play against until Friday against Dallas.