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NHL Preview from The Sports Network

Friday, March 30th (All times eastern)

Tampa Bay Lightning (41-32-4) at Carolina Hurricanes (38-31-8), 7:30 p.m.

(Sports Network) - A pair of struggling playoff hopefuls try to get back on the right track tonight, when the Tampa Bay Lightning visit the Carolina Hurricanes at RBC Center.

The Lightning come into Friday with 86 points and are tied with Montreal for the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference. Carolina is two points back, knotted with the New York Islanders for 10th place.

Tampa Bay has dropped two straight and five of its last seven contests and has fallen five points behind Atlanta for the Southeast Division lead.

The Lightning has been outscored 12-4 in its last two games, losing 7-2 to Ottawa on Saturday and getting dealt a 5-2 setback by Florida on Tuesday. The decisive defeat put a sour ending on a four-game homestand that began with a pair of victories.

On Tuesday, Nathan Horton had two goals and an assist to pace Florida over Tampa Bay at St. Pete Times Forum.

Brad Richards and Filip Kuba tallied for the Lightning, while Marc Denis made just 14 stops in the loss.

Martin St. Louis notched an assist in the loss and has 98 points on the year. He is trying to become just the second player in team history to reach the 100-point mark in a season. Vincent Lecavalier, who is at 100 points exactly, became the first to do it when he reached the plateau last Saturday.

The Hurricanes have also lost two straight, as they came away empty on a brief two-game road trip. After getting slammed 6-1 by the Maple Leafs on Tuesday, Carolina was handed a 5-1 thrashing Wednesday by the lowly Philadelphia Flyers.

Jeff Carter notched two goals and an assist to lead the way for the Flyers at the Wachovia Center.

Ray Whitney's goal provided the lone offense for the Hurricanes, who had won three straight before the last two lopsided losses. John Grahame surrendered four goals on 24 shots for his second consecutive loss.

Carolina and the Lightning have split six meetings this year, but Tampa Bay has come out on top in eight of the last 14 overall encounters in the series.

The Hurricanes are 20-14-4 as the home team this season, while Tampa is 21-15-3 as the visiting club.

03/30 10:35:34 ET

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