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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Saturday, March 26th (All times eastern)

Tampa Bay Lightning (39-24-11) at Carolina Hurricanes (35-29-10), 7 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The Carolina Hurricanes hope that by matching their longest winning streak of the season, they can make up ground in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

A disappointing March has seemingly dashed the Tampa Bay Lightning's chances at a division title.

The Hurricanes take aim at a fourth straight victory, while the Lightning try to avoid a season-worst fifth consecutive defeat in the finale of a home-and- home series at RBC Center.

Carolina and Tampa Bay clashed last night at St. Pete Times Forum, with the 'Canes holding on for a 4-3 victory thanks to a pair of goals by Eric Cole. The forward's second goal of the game in the third period followed by a power- play tally from Eric Staal gave Carolina a three-goal lead, which was cut to one when the Lightning's Vincent Lecavalier and Simon Gagne scored less than a minute apart later in the frame.

"They got a couple of quick goals and were coming on there at the end, but I thought we had a great game tonight," said Staal, who scored for the first time in eight games. "We've been fighting things a little bit the past couple of weeks, but we're starting to get things together here."

Jeff Skinner also scored and Cam Ward made 18 saves for Carolina, which has won three straight after losing five of six and remained three points behind Buffalo for eighth place in the Eastern Conference with eight games to play. The Sabres host the Devils tonight.

The Hurricanes will try to match their season-best win streak set from Dec. 11-18 and could have defenseman Jamie McBain, who is close to returning from a shoulder injury.

The Lightning, meanwhile, are seven points behind the Capitals for first place in the Southeast Division with eight contests to play and a game in hand. They are also just two points up on the Canadiens for the fifth spot in the East.

Gagne ended with two goals and Lecavalier added an assist while reaching the 20-goal mark for an 11th straight season.

"You see a lot of teams playing desperate hockey this time of the season," said Gagne. "For them, it's already the playoffs and it showed tonight."

Dwayne Roloson made 35 saves in the loss, Tampa's fourth in a row that dropped them to 2-6-4 this month.

Though these two division rivals have split four meetings this year, the Hurricanes are 14-4-2 in the past 20 meetings. That includes a victory in nine of the past 10 at home in this series.

Ward will likely get the call for the Hurricanes tonight and is 16-9-2 with a 2.88 goals-against average in his career versus the Lightning, but is 8-1 in his past nine at home when facing them.

The Lightning could stick with Roloson tonight given that backup Mike Smith is 0-6-3 with a 3.29 GAA in his career against Carolina. Roloson fell to 5-6-0 with a 2.84 GAA versus the club.

03/26 10:50:32 ET


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