Final

Series (Game 1 of 6)

Tampa Bay leads 4-2

Game 1: Monday, December 20th
Hurricanes1Final
Lightning5
Game 2: Saturday, January 15th
Lightning4Final
Hurricanes6
Game 3: Saturday, February 12th
Hurricanes3Final
OT
Lightning4
Game 4: Friday, March 25th
Hurricanes4Final
Lightning3
Game 5: Saturday, March 26th
Lightning4Final
Hurricanes2
Game 6: Saturday, April 9th
Lightning6Final
Hurricanes2

Hurricanes 1

(15-13-4, 34 pts)

Lightning 5

(19-10-4, 42 pts)

7:30 PM ET, December 20, 2010

Tampa Bay Times Forum, Tampa, Florida

1 2 3 T
CAR 1 0 01
TB 2 3 05

M. St. Louis (Lightning - RW): Goals: 1, Assists: 2

D. Ellis (Lightning - G): Saves: 21, Save Pct.: .955

V. Lecavalier (Lightning - C): Goals: 0, Assists: 1

Hurricanes-Lightning Preview

STATS LLC

Since Steven Stamkos came into the league two seasons ago, he's generally come up short against the Carolina Hurricanes. Eric Staal, meanwhile, has dominated the Tampa Bay Lightning in those games.

The two high-scoring centers meet for the first time this season Monday night when the surging Southeast Division rivals open their six-game season series.

Carolina (15-12-4) has won four straight and Tampa Bay (18-10-4) three in a row heading into their first meeting. The Hurricanes went 3-2-1 against the Lightning last season after winning all six matchups the season before when Stamkos was a rookie.

Stamkos is second in the league with 25 goals behind Sidney Crosby, and he'll be playing on a night when the first 5,000 fans will be given his bobblehead.

However, Stamkos has just one goal and three assists in 11 games against the Hurricanes. He's got at least six goals and 11 points against every other Southeast rival.

The Lightning, meanwhile, have been unable to slow down Staal over the last two seasons. The Hurricanes top scorer has 11 goals in that span against Tampa Bay for his highest total against any team to go along with six assists.

Both centers turned in strong efforts in their last games.

Staal had the 12th hat trick of his career and second of the season Saturday in a 4-2 win over Anaheim. His 33 points are 10 more than any teammate.

"Staal has the ability to take the game over," goalie Cam Ward said. "He really picked up his play when we were down one goal and put the team on his shoulders. There's a reason why he's one of the more dominant players in the league, and you got to see it."

Stamkos had a goal and an assist Saturday in a 3-1 victory at Buffalo, giving him six points in his last four games.

Tampa Bay is 5-2-1 in its last eight, including four one-goal wins.

"I think we're taking pride the last couple weeks in our defensive play," Stamkos said.

The Lightning rotate Dan Ellis and Mike Smith in goal. Ellis won his lone career start against Carolina with Nashville in 2008 while Smith is 0-5-3 with a 3.30 goals-against average in eight starts against the Hurricanes.

Ward, meanwhile, is the clear No. 1 for Carolina, going 2-0-1 with a 1.83 GAA in his last four starts. He's 10-4-0 with a 2.06 GAA in his last 14 starts against the Lightning.

"When we have needed (Ward) to make the saves, he has," Staal said. "He's one of the best in the league, and we expect that every night, and take it for granted some nights."

Ward and the Hurricanes may have to worry more about Martin St. Louis than Stamkos. St. Louis has six points in his last four games, and eight in his last seven versus Carolina.

The winger had a goal and two assists Saturday for Tampa Bay, 5-0-1 in its last six at home.

Carolina last won five straight during a seven-game run Feb. 5-March 4.

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