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Game preview: Tampa Bay Lightning at Carolina Hurricanes

The Tampa Bay Lightning open up the 2011-2012 season on the road with five games, including Friday's season opener against Carolina on Oct. 7.

Ryan Shannon
Ryan Shannon

WHEN:  October 7 at 7 PM EDT

WHERE: RBC Arena, Raleigh, North Carolina


Teams at a glance

LIGHTNING:  The Lightning surprised the hockey world last season by taking the Boston Bruins to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals, although they eventually lost that game 1-0. The Lightning return to the ice to open up their season on the road at RBC arena, where they had a 2-1 record last season, including a 6-2 win at the end of the season that ended the Hurricanes hopes to make the playoffs. The Lightning had the edge in last season's series against the Hurricanes, with a 4-2 record. Dwayne Roloson will get the start in net tomorrow against the Hurricanes. He played in three games against the Hurricanes last season with a 1-2 record. A surprise on the Lightning's final opening night roster is right winger, Brett Connolly, who was the Lightning's  first round pick in the 2010 draft. He had an impressive preseason and the Lightning now have nine days to figure whether he is NHL ready or not. Connolly will be playing on the third line with C Dominic Moore and LW Ryan Shannon. Also snagging up a roster spot for Friday's opener is forward Blair Jones, meaning Mattias Ritola and Tom Pyatt will likely sit out. Jones will be playing on the Lightning's fourth line, alongside RW Nate Thompson and LW Adam Hall. Eyes will be on the Lightning's power play Friday night, to see if it can play as well as it did in the preseason. Following tonight's game, the Lightning will travel to Boston to continue its five game road trip to open up the 2011-2012 season.


HURRICANES: After missing the playoffs for the second year in a row and finishing third in the Southeast Division, the Hurricanes added much needed depth to their roster in the offseason. Carolina lost the clutch winger Erik Cole, who went to Montreal in the offseason, but they did add Alexei Ponikarovsky and prospect Anthony Stewart. Ponikarovsky had two less than impressive seasons with the Penguins, and mostly recently the Kings but he has been playing with Eric Staal on the top line all preseason and will most likely do so Friday night. Stewart had career highs in goals (14) and assists (25) last season with Atlanta. Carolina's final roster includes nine defensemen, two of which are rookies in Justin Faulk and Ryan Murphy. It isn't official who will be on the Carolina blue-line Friday against the Lightning, but Faulk, Carolina's second round draft pick in 2010, will most likely be in the lineup. Also on defense is Tomas Kaberle, who the Hurricanes added in the offseason to bolster up their blue-line, albeit as a rental player. Kaberle had a dismal showing last season in the playoffs with the Bruins, with no goals and 11 assists.  Defense will in fact be a focus for the Hurricanes who were outscored 26-18 in last season's series against the Lightning. Cam Ward will get the start in net tomorrow against the Lightning. Ward played in five out of the six games against the Tampa Bay last season, putting up a 2-2-1 record.  

INJURY REPORT: LIGHTNING-- Matias Ohlund (right knee, injured reserve)  


These are the projected lines for Friday's game in Carolina.


Projected first line: LW Marty St. Louis, C Steven Stamkos, RW Steve Downie

Projected second line: LW Ryan Malone, C Vincent Lecavalier, RW Teddy Purcell

Projected third line: LW Ryan Shannon, C Dominic Moore, RW Brett Connolly

Projected fourth line: LW Blair Jones, C Nate Thompson, RW Adam Hall

Defensive pairings:

Victor Hedman-Eric Brewer

Marc-Andre Bergeron-Pavel Kubina

Brett Clark-Matt Gilroy

Goaltender: Dwayne Roloson  


Projected first line: LW Jeff Skinner, C Eric Staal, RW Anthony Stewart

Projected second line: LW Jussi Jokinen, C Tuomo Ruutu, RW Zac Dalpe

Projected third line: LW Alexei Ponikarovsky, C Brandon Sutter, RW Chad LaRose

Projected fourth line: LW Jiri Tlusty, C Tim Brent, RW Patrick Dwyer

Defensive pairings:

Joni Pitkanen-Tim Gleason

Tim Gleason-Tomas Kaberle

Jay Harrison-Bryan Allen

Jamie McBain-Derek Joslin

Goaltender: Cam Ward

Photographs by, thelastminute, turtlemom nancy , fesek, kthypryn, justinwright, sue_elias, pointnshoot, and scrapstothefuture used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.