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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Tuesday, March 23rd (All times eastern)

Carolina Hurricanes (30-34-8) at Tampa Bay Lightning (28-32-12), 7:30 p.m.

(Sports Network) - Neither the Carolina Hurricanes nor the Tampa Bay Lightning have much to play for at this point of the season, but staying out of the Southeast Division basement should serve as incentive for both teams in tonight's meeting at the St. Pete Times Forum.

The Hurricanes and Lightning are currently tied at the bottom of the Southeast standings with 68 points, although each is just one point back of third-place Florida in the division race. The two clubs remain longshots to advance to the postseason, as both trail Boston by eight points for the eighth and final seed in the Eastern Conference with only 10 games left to play.

Tampa Bay's playoff hopes have taken a severe hit due to a five-game losing streak that was extended with Sunday's 5-2 defeat at Florida. The Lightning dropped all four tests of a homestand prior to that setback and are a brutal 2-11-1 over their last 14 overall outings.

"The biggest (problem) is we're allowing too many goals in front of our net," Tampa head coach Rick Tocchet said after Sunday's loss. "We just got to get tougher in front of our net. It's really costing us."

The Lightning were once again done in by poor defense in their most recent game. The Panthers peppered Tampa goaltender Mike Smith for 40 shots, 18 of which came in the final period.

Tampa pulled within 3-2 early in the third period on Steven Stamkos' 43rd goal of the season, but Florida's Stephen Weiss scored less than two minutes later and Radek Dvorak added a goal later on to put the contest out of reach.

Despite its recent struggles at home, the Lightning own a respectable 18-12-6 record at the St. Pete Times Forum for the season. One of those wins came against the Hurricanes on October 10, a 5-2 decision fueled by a hat trick from now-injured forward Ryan Malone.

Carolina did come out on top in all three of its 2009-10 visits to Tampa, however, en route to a six-game season series. The teams have split four matchups so far this season.

The Hurricanes have gone an impressive 11-4-1 since February 5 and delivered back-to-back wins over Eastern Conference contenders Washington and Pittsburgh before being dealt a 5-3 home loss to Buffalo on Sunday.

Rookie goaltender Justin Peters surrendered four goals on 14 shots before being removed near the midway point of the second period.

"We had a tough time with them when they were around the net tonight," said Carolina center Brandon Sutter, who accounted for one of the Hurricanes' three goals. "It's something we gotta work on. We're still playing good hockey so we have to rebound here in our next game."

Eric Staal and Sergei Samsonov also scored for the Hurricanes, who are 5-1-1 over their last seven road games.

03/23 10:41:51 ET


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