The Lightning will try to add to their recent success in Raleigh on Saturday night by sending the Hurricanes to their first three-game skid in 14 months.
Carolina was piling up points during a 5-0-1 surge earlier this month, but it has since come up empty in back-to-back games. In a 4-3 loss to visiting Winnipeg on Thursday, the Hurricanes (8-6-1) were without Jeff Skinner (concussion), Joni Pitkanen (lower body), Jamie McBain (upper body) and Tim Gleason (lower body).
The loss of Skinner to his second concussion in as many seasons is particularly painful after the 20-year-old center had seven goals and seven assists through the first 13 games. The 2011 Calder Trophy winner, who missed 16 games last season, has nine goals in 11 career matchups with Tampa Bay.
“It’s definitely tough when you have a few big guys out of the lineup,” center Jiri Tlusty said. “But if we want to be a strong team, we have to win games without them and hope they will come back soon. We just have to do the right things and win the games for them.”
The Hurricanes haven’t lost three straight since an 0-6-1 skid Nov. 23-Dec. 6, 2011, but they may find it difficult to win Saturday as they’re 1-4-1 in their last six home games against Tampa Bay.
The Lightning (8-7-1) won 4-1 at Carolina on Jan. 22 for one of their two victories in six road contests this season.
The other one came last Saturday at Florida, and Tampa Bay had won back-to-back games before falling 4-2 to Boston on Thursday. The Lightning rallied from an early 2-0 deficit in that game but couldn’t take the lead, going 0 for 3 on the power play.
Tampa Bay is 3 for 30 with the man advantage over its last eight games since starting the season at 13 for 36.
“We did battle back and we did work hard. We just have to find a way to score on the power play,” said Steven Stamkos who scored his fourth goal in three games.
Stamkos, who has 11 goals this season, had only an assist in last month’s win over the Hurricanes but has collected 10 points in his last eight games in the series. He had two goals, including the game-winner, in a 4-3 overtime victory at Carolina on March 3.
He’ll face either Cam Ward who has often struggled against Tampa Bay, or former teammate Dan Ellis Ward is 6-7-2 with a 3.57 goals-against average in his last 15 games versus the Lightning and has a 3.02 GAA in 37 all-time matchups.
Ellis hasn’t faced the Lightning since playing in 31 games for them in 2010-11 before being traded to Anaheim.
Mathieu Garon stopped 35 of 36 shots for Tampa Bay in last month’s matchup with the Hurricanes, which remains his only win this season. Anders Lindback got his first road win last weekend at Florida, but his GAA rose to 3.81 in five road appearances.