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Carolina Hurricanes at Tampa Bay Lightning: Complacency vs. inconsistency

Tampa Bay will have to find motivation to battle against a Carolina team fighting to make the playoffs.

Carolina Hurricanes at Tampa Bay Lightning: GAME# 43

Time: 7:30 pm Eastern Time

Location: Amalie Arena - site of the 2018 NHL All Star Game

Broadcast/Streaming: SunS, FSCR

Opponent SBNation Site: Canes Country

The Lightning return to Amalie Arena (home of the 2018 NHL All Star Game presented by Honda) to battle their old Southeast Division foes, the Carolina Hurricanes. It’s well known that *Cliche Alert* the first game at home after a long road trip is often tough for the home team. *End Cliche Alert*.

In all honesty, this is exactly the type of game that it is hard for a team to get motivated for. The Lightning are coming off of a hard road trip against Atlantic division teams that ended with a tough game against our current biggest rival. They are a little beat up, especially on defense. A nice long break (six days off) is looming after Thursday’s game against Calgary.

If the Lightning come out flat, then the excuses are built in. For a young team enjoying its first taste of success, they may even be warranted. Tampa Bay is not that type of team. Despite their relative youth, this is an experienced team, and if you believe in locker room leadership this is exactly why Steve Yzerman brought in Dan Girardi and Chris Kunitz.

The good news is that the Lightning play really, really well at home. And even when they don’t play well, they still tend to win as indicated by their 16-3-1 record under the Tesla coils. The Hurricanes have a 9-10-4 record on the road so the odds appear to be in the Lightning’s favor. Still, the game isn’t played on paper (bonus cliche!) so Tampa will need to do more than throw their sticks on the ice to win Tuesday night.

As for their opponent, who are the Carolina Hurricanes? Are they bad? Or merely average? Are they a good team stuck in a hellacious division? To answer the question Raw Charge reached out to Canes Country Managing Editor Brian LeBlanc and asked him, “Are the Hurricanes any good?”

His response:

“Depends on the day. They are fragile as a piece of China. If things go well, they’ve actually shown some backbone lately. But if they go off the rails early, they end up losing by five or six.”

It seems their recent history bears that statement out. They are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games with wins over Nashville, Columbus, and Pittsburgh (twice!). However, two of their losses were blowouts: 8-1 against Toronto and 7-1 to Boston. Despite their inconsistency over the season they are still in the playoff hunt as they are only one point out of the final wild card spot.

Their strength would be along the blue line where they have a lot of young talent in Noah Hanifin, Jacob Slavin and Hayden Fleury. Their offense, while not one of the NHL’s best, is led by a couple of talented Finns in Teuvo Teravainen (11 goals and 22 assists) and Sebastian Aho (13 goals and 20 assists). So there is skill.

Goaltending has been an issue. Scott Darling was brought in during the offseason to take the place of Cam Ward. That plan has hit a bit of a speed bump as Darling has been pedestrian at best posting a 2.97 GAA and .893 SV% in his 26 games this season. His last three appearances have been brutal as he gave up 8 goals to Toronto, 3 goals to St. Louis and 5 goals to Boston.

Ward, on the other hand, is playing alright. He has received the majority of the starts recently and has been ok. On the season, his .911 SV% is the highest he’s posted since 2011-12. He will most likely be between the pipes against the league’s best offense. Lucky him.

Comparison chart: JustinG.’s Random Video Hour

Local commercials are always the best. How about a look in on Arturs Irbe’s acting skills?

Based on the transactions, this would have aired prior to the 2000-01 season. Ozolinsh was acquired in a draft-day trade with Colorado along with a second round pick for future Lightning defenseman Nolan Pratt, a first round pick and two second round picks.

Colorado used the picks to select Vaclav Nedorost, Jared Aulin and Argis Saviels while Carolina drafted Tomas Kurka with the pick they received in the draft. Ozolinsh didn’t line up in front of Irbe for too long as he was dealt to Florida after a season and a half for a package that included Bret Hedican and Kevyn Adams.

Kevin Hatcher had an even shorter tenure with the organization as he lasted only 57 games after signing with the Hurricanes for $1.5 million in the offseason. The additions were enough to help Carolina return to the playoffs as an eight-seed where they lost in the first round to the New Jersey Devils in six games.

Irbe eating popcorn through his iconic cage-style mask is fantastic.

For actual game charts and information relevant to the game go follow @loserpoints on Twitter.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Forward Lines

Chris Kunitz — Steven Stamkos — Nikita Kucherov

Ondrej Palat — Brayden Point — Tyler Johnson

Alex Killorn — Yanni Gourde — Vladislav Namestnikov

Ryan Callahan — Cedric Paquette —

Defense Pairings

Goaltenders

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Louis Domingue

Notes: These initial lines are based solely on how the game started in Detroit. They are most likely going to be switched up. The status of Jake Dotchin and Dan Girardi are two of the biggest question marks, but we also don’t know if Coach Cooper is going to keep the forwards together as he did against Detroit or, now that he can dictate the match-ups, reverts back to the combinations that he has iced for most of the season. For the record, Girardi is listed as day-to-day following his early departure after taking a Martin Frk slapshot off of his head.

Dotchin was a healthy scratch after a rough game in Ottawa. Unless he’s nursing an undisclosed injury he will most likely cycle back into the line-up. Stay tuned for updates throughout the day as we learn more.

Carolina Hurricanes

Forward Lines

Sebastian Aho - Jordan Staal - Teuvo Teravainen

Brock McGinn - Victor Rask - Justin Williams

Jeff Skinner - Derek Ryan - Elias Lindholm

Joakim Nordstrom - Marcus Kruger - Phillip Di Giuseppe

Defense Pairings

Jacob Slavin - Brett Pesce

Haydn Fleury - Justin Faulk

Noah Hanifin - Trevor van Riemsdyk

Goalies

Cam Ward

Scott Darling

Line Up Notes: These combinations are pulled from LeftWingLock.com and may change. Veteran forward Lee Stempniak was activated on Monday and could see action in Tampa.