Friday, March 30, 2007

Game Preview: TB vs. Car (updated)

With just over a week left in the regular season, six teams in the Eastern Conference are separated by only three points for the final three playoff spots. The Lightning (41-32-4) are in seventh place with 86 points and the Hurricanes (38-31-8) are 11th with 84.

These teams could have created more separation in the standings, but both have been blown out in their last two games. Carolina has been outscored 11-2 over that span, while Tampa Bay has been outscored 12-4.

Tampa Bay, still battling with Atlanta for the Southeast Division title, lost 5-2 to Florida on Tuesday.

"This hurts. This game really hurts right now," Lightning captain Tim Taylor said. "All is not lost. We have to remain positive. You never want a team thinking negative thoughts."

Tampa Bay, which won the Stanley Cup in 2004, is trying to earn its fourth straight playoff appearance, but has lost seven of its last 11.

"We're taking the long route here, that's for sure, about getting in," Lightning coach John Tortorella said. "We are going to get in. We're just going around the block. We're going to get there. It's a guarantee."

Martin St. Louis is two points away from joining Vincent Lecavalier as the only two players in Tampa Bay history to reach 100 points in a season. St. Louis has scored in each of his last five games against the Hurricanes, registering seven goals and three assists in those contests.

Lecavalier, who has four goals and two assists in his last five games against Carolina, recorded his 100th point on Saturday.

Marc Denis allowed three goals on 14 shots Tuesday before being pulled during the second intermission for Johan Holmqvist, who stopped all seven shots he faced. They have been splitting time this season, but Holmqvist could get the start in this game because of his better numbers against Carolina.

He's 1-1-0 with a 1.58 GAA in three games against the Hurricanes this season, while Denis is 2-2-0 with a 4.09 GAA in five appearances against them.

Update: Holmer will start in net tonight, Ranger may be in line up.

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Mark said...

I am so excited to watch tonight's game that it is all I can think about. Last night was really disappointing. That goes to show you that we have put ourselves into a situation that we can't control... again. Atlanta moves a bit further out of range WHILE Toronto inches closer - the worst outcome possible. I hope Holmqvist can regain that post-break confidence. Must be hard when goalies are pulled so frequently midgame these days. BTW Rick, I wrote something again last night that did not post. Hope this goes through.