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No sugar crash, please; Tampa Bay Lightning at Carolina Hurricanes preview

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The Lightning play the first game of a back-to-back tonight against the Hurricanes. They'll face the St. Louis Blues tomorrow at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

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Never forget. April 4, 2013.
Never forget. April 4, 2013.
USA TODAY Sports

Where: PNC Arena - Raleigh, NC
When: 7:00 PM ET | Tickets: Check availability
Media: SunSports | 970 AM WFLA (radio)
Opponent Coverage: CanesCountry

Okay, Tampa Bay Lightning. It's the day after Halloween and it's time to come down from the sugar rush. Someone drag @FakeLindback out of his candy-filled swimming pool, 'cause it's time to go to work.

The Lightning are in Raleigh to take on former Southeast Division foe, the Carolina Hurricanes. The Canes are part of the struggling Metropolitan Division now, and they've gone 4-5-3, which is good for second over there. The Bolts' record of 8-4-0 makes them third in the Flortheast. Here are some words from the coach about the game:

So then the Brett Connolly callup is related to the shooting problem and not an audition for a trade. Interesting. Wonder if anyone could have foreseen that?

Statistically, the Lightning are kinda sorta but maybe not doing better than the Hurricanes.

At 5v5 Close

CorsiFor%

FenwickFor%

Save%

Shooting%

GoalsFor%

TBL

47.7

47.3

.934

8.5

54.5

CAR

46.5

44.5

.909

5.8

34.6

But...

All 5v5

CorsiFor%

FenwickFor%

Save%

Shooting%

GoalsFor%

TBL

47.9

47.3

.908

8.5

46.3

CAR

49.5

47.9

.928

6.7

46.2

So if you include the times where these teams are playing catch-up (plus third periods) they're pretty evenly matched. In analyzing a team's play we generally use "close" numbers because that removes as much of the variations teams go through as possible. Each team spends a different amount of time sheltering a lead or trying to claw back from a deficit. Each team spends a different amount of time up or down a man in special teams. Teams start to change their strategy in the third period, whether they're leading, trailing, or tied. Analysis of "close" numbers basically tells us how a team is doing when they're playing according to their preparation instead of according to the game situation.

But there's a significant part of an individual game that isn't played in "close" conditions. And that's often the part that's the difference between two standings points and none. The Hurricanes are doing somewhat better at scoring/not getting scored on when not in close conditions and the Lightning are doing a bit worse. Both teams have 13 third period goals, so that's a wash. Where they differ is on the power play.

On special teams:

TBL PP

24.0%

TBL PK

83.3%

CAR PK

79.6%

CAR PP

15.4%

Carolina has 8 PPGs and 1 shorthanded goal against in 52 opportunities for an effective power play percentage of 13.46%. Tampa Bay has 12 PPGs and 3 SHGAs in 50 opportunities for an effective rate of 18%.

There've also been some big differences in luck:

PDO

STE

TBL

101.9

107.3

CAR

96.8

95

My point here is that this is hockey and past performance does not guarantee future results. It's easy to look at a record like Carolina's and say the Lightning should win this game with ease. And maybe this is a game the Lightning ought to win. But that's not something anyone should take for granted.

Neither team is outshooting the opposition, like, ever, and the thing about goals is that they're basically random. Is tonight the night that the Hurricanes' shooting percentage or save percentage rebounds? Is this the game where the Lightning power play and penalty kill success fall?

Essentially, the Lightning have a chance here, as long as they don't squander it. If they come out with energy, awareness, and discipline, they are more than capable of taking the lead. Then they just have to hold onto it.

Lineup and game notes:

  • Steven Stamkos comes into the game with 18 points. He's in a three-way tie for second place in NHL scoring along with Phil Kessel and Henrik Sedin. He's played two fewer games than Kessel and three fewer than Sedin. (Stamkos is also scoring at a 24.5% pace, which is likely to drop towards 13-15% over the course of the season.)

  • Martin St. Louis is second for the Lightning and eleventh in the league with 14 points.

  • Jeff Skinner leads the Hurricanes in scoring with nine points and three goals. Eric Staal has eight points and three goals.
  • Unfortunately for the Canes, Jeff Skinner was placed on Injured Reserve yesterday.
  • The Hurricanes just signed Manny Malhotra and he's expected to play against the Lightning tonight. He's been playing with the club's AHL team the Charlotte Checkers. In 8 games he has no points in 10 shots on goal and was a -2.
  • Ben Bishop gets the call for this game, which seems a bit odd. I expected he'd go tomorrow (home town, former team, stronger opponent). But as Mike Corcoran pointed out, Jon Cooper likely views this as the more important game, given that the Lightning could potentially be competing against Carolina for a wild card spot at the end of the season.

  • Brett Connolly was called up from the Syracuse Crunch (AHL) yesterday.

  • Justin Peters is in for the Hurricanes. He has an .893 overall and a .903 at even strength. So a bit of a lucky break there, perhaps.
  • Lightning lines are as follows, per Erik Erlendsson:

    • Killorn-Stamkos-St Louis

    • Malone-Filppula-Purcell

    • Palat-Johnson-Connolly
  • Lightning scratches are Andrej Sustr, Keith Aulie, and Pierre-Cedric Labrie. Meaning that Richard Panik and Mark Barberio are both in. Panik will line up with Nate Thompson and B.J. Crombeen.

  • The Hurricanes will wear their third jersey tonight; the Lightning are expected to wear their home jerseys. Do not be confused. They are still in Raleigh.