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NHL Preview from The Sports Network

Wednesday, March 10th (All times eastern)

Tampa Bay Lightning (39-17-8-5) at Carolina Hurricanes (22-29-13-4), 7 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The red-hot Tampa Bay Lightning continue their push for the top seed in the Eastern Conference tonight when they visit the Carolina Hurricanes at RBC Center.

The Lightning have 91 points and are one ahead of Philadelphia for the top spot in the East. Tampa Bay has already clinched the Southeast Division title.

Tampa shored up its defense before Tuesday's trade deadline, acquiring Stan Neckar from Nashville in exchange for a sixth-round selection in this year's draft.

On Monday, Tampa Bay showed it could play with the big boys, as it managed a 1-1 tie with the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena.

Nikolai Khabibulin ended with 28 saves, including four in overtime, as he helped keep the Lightning in the contest. Khabibulin improved to 24-15-7 between the pipes this season.

Khabibulin was named the NHL's Defensive Player of the Week. Khabibulin has helped the Lightning collect a point in each of their past 16 games (12-0-2-2).

Tampa Bay had its club-record eight-game winning streak snapped, but earned a point for the 16th straight game (12-0-2-2). The Lightning haven't lost a game in regulation since February 3.

Fredrik Modin registered the Lightning's lone goal in the contest. Modin has posted 23 goals this season.

The Lightning's next game is at home Friday night against the New York Rangers.

Carolina dealt Ron Francis to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday in exchange for a fourth-round draft pick in 2005. Francis waived his no-trade clause to allow the move.

The 41-year-old playmaker departs Carolina after spending the past six seasons with the Hurricanes. In all, Francis has played parts of 16 seasons with the Hurricanes/Whalers franchise.

The Hurricanes tallied a 4-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets Monday night at Nationwide Arena. Aaron Ward notched his first career two-goal game, as the Hurricanes picked up the win. Erik Cole and Craig Adams also scored in the winning effort.

Arturs Irbe made 27 saves to remain unbeaten in three starts this season (2-0-1) for the Hurricanes, who have won four straight on the road and improved to 2-2-1-1 in their last six games overall. Irbe's last shutout came on March 30, 2002 at Boston, a 2-0 decision.

Eric Staal delivered the first two-assist game of his career for the Hurricanes.

Carolina hosts Atlanta at home on Friday evening before beginning a five-game road trip in Tampa on Saturday.

The Lightning are unbeaten in the last nine meetings with Carolina (5-0-4). They are also 2-1-4 in their previous seven trips to the RBC Center.

03/10 11:02:25 ET

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