Tampa Bay Sports Day

NHL: Hurricanes Hope Home Cookin’ Helps Against Lightning

RALEIGH, N.C. –– The Carolina Hurricanes are in need of something more than just encouraging performances, especially after a series of disturbing results.

For the most part, the same applies to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Hurricanes failed to win on a three-game road trip, so they return to PNC Arena for Sunday’s game against the Lightning in a bit of a surly mood.

“At this point, we’re sort of beyond the moral victories,” Hurricanes forward Lee Stempniak said. “I think we need to start producing wins.”

Tampa Bay snapped a four-game losing streak, but it took a shootout to do it Saturday night against the Washington Capitals.

Both teams had games Saturday, so whichever side makes the quickest recovery is bound to be in the best position for this encounter.

The Hurricanes played an afternoon game in New York and ended up with a 4-2 loss to the Rangers, while Tampa Bay was at home in a game that was extended to the shootout Saturday night.

Carolina has a five-game home-ice winning streak, so there could be something to build on from that perspective.
Tampa Bay doesn’t want to waste a chance either.

“They’re important points now, especially when you’re going against teams in the East,” Lightning goalie Ben Bishop said. “… You’ve got to find a way to get points.”

The Hurricanes didn’t produce strong finishes on their road trip and that’s something that needs to be addressed along with the continued concerned about inconsistent offense. Carolina is the second-lowest scoring team in the Eastern Conference.

“You got to get hungry to score,” Hurricanes coach Bill Peters said. “You can’t just be content to play well. You need offensive contributions from your top six (forwards). That’s the reality, especially when you have a few injuries and you need players to step up.”

The Hurricanes figure to turn to goalie Cam Ward, who sat out Saturday’s game. Last weekend, Carolina also split goalie duties, but Michael Leighton drew the home assignment then.

So this would make this Ward’s first home outing since Nov. 20.

The last time the Hurricanes played at home a week ago, they lost center Jordan Staal to a concussion. He hasn’t played since then and it’s unlikely that he’ll be activated for Sunday’s game.

The matchup against Tampa Bay is Carolina’s only home game during a six-game stretch. The Hurricanes are headed to the West Coast next.

Tampa Bay played Saturday night without right winger Ryan Callahan and defenseman Aaron Garrison, but Lightning coach Jon Cooper said there’s no time to fret about the absence of injured players.

“Every position is getting tested,” Cooper said. “You have to have depth in the organization and that has helped us in the past.”

After the hectic weekend, the Lightning will have three days off. So the team will want to go into the break on the schedule with a positive vibe and part of that might come with how Tampa Bay begins the game in Raleigh.

“It’s about being ready for the start,” Bishop said. “We can talk about it all we want, but it’s about going out and doing it.