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17 or better; Tampa Bay Lightning at Carolina Hurricanes

34 games left and the Bolts goal should be 17 wins or more in that span; a .500 record.

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Where:  PNC Arena, Raleigh, North Carolina
When: 7:30 PM EST | Tickets: Check availability
Media: NBC Sports Network (cable) | 970 AMWFLA (radio) | Twitter Live Stream
Opponent Coverage: Canes Country

In the NHL, don't let the third column fool you; it's a loss. They are points gained though, but they are a loss.  The overtime/shootout loss and points system has already been talked about by me, though.

Yet, how do you break down 34 games into a .500 record?

That's actually kind of quizzical and interesting. 34 games in half is 17, so a 17-17 record is .500. There are so many different combinations to achieve .500 in a 34 game span, but the loss and overtime/shootout loss total cannot exceed 17 games.

It's not even an official challenge for the Tampa Bay Lightning as the second (less-than) half of the NHL season gets underway starting tonight in Raleigh, North Carolina for the Bolts in their season-finale matchup with the Carolina Hurricanes. The club went 30-14-4 through its first 48 games of the season, which is remarkable by itself. A recent FanPost broke down the first half and an argument was made a few weeks back that Tyler Johnson was the first-half MVP for the club.

64 points doesn't guarantee a playoff spot. The just-under 2-to-1 pace of winning for the Lightning's 48 games so far isn't assured to last, and with 13 of the 15 other teams in the conference having at least a game in-hand on Tampa Bay, its lofty position in the Eastern Conference isn't guaranteed to remain. This is part of why a .500 record in the remaining games is a good target - lowering expectations a mite and accepting the adversity that can come to light if injuries continue to mount for the club. 17 wins gets them there.  "There" being the playoffs. Sports Club Stats already has the Bolts as almost a certainty to make it.

The challenge of completing those last 34 games in a respectable fashion begins tonight against the Canes.

The status of Tyler Johnson remains questionable, though he once again participated in practice for the Lightning today.  He'll be a game time decision.

There was some interesting musing on Twitter today about Hurricanes forward Alexander Semin and his future with the club. He's a name you haven't heard so much this season after he was part of Carolina's surge in previous years.  He has only one goal and 7 assists on the season in 26 games played. Bill Peters, Carolina's head coach, does not come off happy with the effort Semin is putting out:

For a club that's struggling to the degree Carolina is, an argument could be made against Peters... At the same time, a coach needs his team to buy into a system and if someone integral doesn't, that creates a problem.  The Hurricanes have a roster turnover imminent in one way or another as Eric Staal's name has been dangled in trade rumors since early in the season. If Semin is on his way out too, you can expect more player movement to come as GM Ron Francis lay out their own plans for the club and its makeup.

But the club isn't done with him, or so the GM says.  Stay tuned.

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