One of the reasons that hockey is the most exciting of all of the ‘stick and ball’ sports is the competitiveness of the NHL. There are no ‘easy nights’ and the tough grind is already upon us just days into the regular season. This reality is evident in today’s game as the Tampa Bay Lightning travel to Raleigh to take on the Carolina Hurricanes.
Both teams are off of big road games less than 24 hours previous. Tampa Bay played the second of a home and home set with the Florida Panthers, losing this time by a 4-3 margin. Mike Hoffman had a hat trick for Florida who opened up a 4-1 lead just seconds into the third period. Tampa mounted a furious rally but fell short thanks to some clutch goaltending by Sergei Bobrovsky.
Carolina comes in off a win in their Saturday night road game. Washington held a 2-0 lead after two periods before goals by Erik Haula and Jaccob Slavin tied it up and sent it to overtime. Jake Gardiner would score in the final minute of the OT session to give the Hurricanes the win. Carolina got a nice effort from backup goaltender James Reimer in his debut performance for the team stopping 33 of 35 Capitals’ shots.
So that leaves us with two teams in similar scheduling spots and both having to travel. In a situation like this, we typically want to play on the team coming off a loss in their previous game. Tampa Bay does have a big game on deck playing at Toronto but it’s not until Thursday which will likely serve to mitigate any ‘lookahead’ potential. Carolina will play at Florida on Tuesday before returning home for a Friday night game against the New York Islanders. This is the second game on a long road trip for Tampa Bay with stops remaining in Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Boston.
With Reimer starting on Saturday, it’ll be Petr Mrazek back in Carolina’s net. Tampa Bay has yet to confirm their goaltender but the expectation is that it’ll be former Hurricane Curtis McElhinney between the pipes in a second of back to back spot. Unlike many teams in the Eastern Conference, Tampa Bay has had little trouble with Carolina in recent years. The Bolts have won 5 of the last 6 head to head including 2 of 3 at Carolina.