Get your game notes: Lightning at Hurricanes

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Tonight on NBCSN, it’s the Carolina Hurricanes hosting the Tampa Bay Lightning at 7:30 p.m. ET. Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL on NBC research team:

TOP STORYLINES

• TB’s All-Stars were Steven Stamkos, Tyler Johnson, and Jonathan Drouin (rookie selection).

• Stamkos had 2G, 1A for Team Foligno on Sunday.

• Johnson did not participate in either Saturday or Sunday’s activities due to a lower body injury.

• Drouin won the fastest skater competition as a member of Team Foligno, with a time of 13.103 seconds.

• CAR’s only All-Star was Justin Faulk.

• Faulk had 2 assists in the win for Team Toews.

TAMPA BAY FIRST-HALF REVIEW

• TB begins play after the All-Star Break as the Atlantic Division leader, the top team in the East, and the NHL’s highest scoring team (3.21 goals/gm).

• The Lightning enter on a 3-game win streak, and are 6-3-0 overall in January.

• Last Game: TB def. VAN 4-1 last Tuesday. This marked the Lightning’s 8th straight home victory.

• With 64 points, the Bolts are off to the best 48-game start in the 22-season history of the franchise.

• TB trails league-leading ANA (68 pts) by 4 points; the Lightning have never won the President’s Trophy.

CAROLINA FIRST-HALF REVIEW

• The Hurricanes enter in last place in the Metropolitan Division (37 pts). Only BUF (31 pts) and EDM (33 pts) have fewer points in the NHL this season (AZ also has 37 pts).

• However, the Canes’ play has improved in 2015. CAR enters on a 2-game win streak, and the team has a 6-2-1 record overall in January.

• Last game: CAR def. TOR 4-1 last Monday.

• The win vs. TOR capped off a 2-0-0 Ontario road trip (also beat OTT 3-2) – the first time CAR has won back-to-back road games this season.

• TB injury woes: The Lightning have injuries to key players currently, especially on the blue line…

• D Matt Carle (torn abdominal muscles) had surgery last week and was expected to miss 6-8 weeks.

• Carle leads the team in blocked shots (74) and ranks 3rd in TOI/G (20:34) in 46 games this season.

• D Radko Gudas (knee) was expected to miss 4 months at the time of his arthroscopic knee surgery at the beginning of January.

• Despite playing in just 31 games, Gudas leads TB in hits (115), and is 2nd in blocked shots (63).

• F Tyler Johnson (lower-body) did not participate in the skills competition or the All-Star Game, and though he practiced Monday, is still considered day-to-day.

• Johnson leads TB in assists (31) and points (48) and is 2nd in the NHL with a +26 rating this season.

TAMPA BAY TEAM/PLAYER NOTES

• Steven Stamkos had an assist in TB’s most recent game – a 4-1 win vs. VAN last Tuesday.

• With 26 goals this season, Stamkos trails league-leaders Tyler Seguin and Rick Nash (28 goals) by just two. Alex Ovechkin is 3rd in the NHL with 27 goals this season.

• The Lightning captain is a two-time winner of the Maurice Richard Trophy (NHL leading goal-scorer); he captured the title in 2010 (tied w/ Sidney Crosby) and in 2012 by himself.

• Career vs. CAR: 24 points (12G-12A) in 31 career games.

• Ryan Callahan, who signed a 6-year/$34.8 million contract extension with TB this summer through 2019-20, is on pace for a career season points-wise with 35 points in 43 games played so far.

• Callahan set his career-high with 54 points (29G-25A) in 2011-12 with the New York Rangers.

• He has 5 points (3G-2A) in his last 6 games.

• Alex Killorn scored twice against VAN for the first 2-goal game of his career.

• Nikita Kucherov is t-2nd on the team in goals (17), but he has gone 9 straight games without a goal (0G-6A).

• Kucherov leads the NHL with a +28 rating this season.

• Ben Bishop has started all 3 games during the Lightning’s win streak (3-0-0 record, 1.62 GAA, .951 SV%), and he ranks t-4th in the NHL with 24 wins this season. He has great numbers all-time vs. the Hurricanes…

• Career vs. CAR: 5-0-0 record, 1.19 GAA, .967 SV%, 2 SO.

CAROLINA TEAM/PLAYER NOTES

• Jordan Staal missed the first 35 games of CAR’s season (fractured fibula). The team’s offense — and overall record — has been much improved with him in the lineup this season.

• Jordan had 2 assists in the win vs. TOR, and he has 6 points (1G-5A) in 10 games overall since his return.

• Eric Staal has benefitted from Jordan’s return – he has 8 goals in the 11 games since Jordan returned on Dec. 29 (8G-1A). The two have been playing on the top line together.

• Eric had 2 goals – both assisted by his brother Jordan – in the game vs. TOR.

• Career vs. TB: 67 points (31G-36A) in 63 career games. The 31 goals are his most vs. any NHL opponent.

• Khudobin stealing the show: While veteran Cam Ward has started 31 of the team’s 46 games this season, Anton Khudobin is the hot goalie for Carolina of late.

• Ward has won just 3 of his past 14 starts (3-9-2 record, 2.42 GAA, .910 SV%) dating back to Dec. 7.

Columnist: The improving ‘Canes are TOTALLY blowing it

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We mentioned last week that the Carolina Hurricanes, after a terrible start to the season, were beginning to play some pretty good hockey. And that’s continued in the time since, with two more wins in Ottawa and Toronto improving their record to 6-2-1 in January.

That also has one columnist at Raleigh’s News & Observer wondering if the ‘Canes are, you know, totally blowing it.

Write Luke DeCock:

In the NHL, if you’re not going to be good, it’s far better to be very, very bad, especially in a year when there’s a generational prospect available with the No. 1 pick in the draft, which happens every three or four years or so. Connor McDavid may not be a household name yet for casual American hockey fans, but there’s a pretty good chance he will be for the next 15 years or so.

Since McDavid is available, with Jack Eichel not far behind in the No. 2 spot, it’s a really good year to be really bad, a far better time to be much worse than usual.

No one enjoys losing, and no one should, but a little short-term pain could pay huge long-term dividends for the Hurricanes. Anything else only leads to more of the same.

It’s worth noting that the ‘Canes, barring a miracle, still have a shot at winning the draft lottery. All they have to do is miss the playoffs.

But DeCock is right that their chances of landing McDavid or Eichel are growing worse. And unlike the Buffalo Sabres, who went on a run of their own in November and December, the ‘Canes, with Jordan Staal back in the lineup, are playing solid possession hockey, suggesting this may not just be a blip.

Video: Leafs, Canes captains spar; Staal rockets empty-netter towards Phaneuf

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Carolina’s Eric Staal took exception to a hit Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf delivered to Eric’s younger brother, Jordan Staal in the third period of the Hurricanes’ 4-1 victory tonight. The elder Staal was quick to challenge Phaneuf over it and the two team captains exchanged blows.

You can see that fight below:

That wasn’t the end of it though. With the game winding down, Eric Staal was given the opportunity to collect an empty-net goal with Phaneuf being the primary obstacle in his path. Staal rocketed the puck forward nearly hitting the Leafs blueliner in the process:

“I was ready,” Staal told PHT’s Dhiren Mahiban. “One of those plays where you just react and you’re into the emotion of the game, you’re into the energy and I knew I wanted to get it in so I made sure I got a hold of it.”

That was just Staal’s second NHL fight, per hockeyfights.com. By comparison, Phaneuf has dropped the gloves four times in the 2014-15 campaign alone.

Video: Lindholm’s shootout goal helps the Canes edge the Avs

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Elias Lindholm showed off his sweet hands in the shootout helping the Carolina Hurricanes edge the Colorado Avalanche 3-2 Tuesday night.

Victor Rask also scored in the shootout while Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon were stopped by Anton Khudobin.

The Canes have now won two of three.

Jordan Staal scored his first of the season to open the scoring and Patrick Dwyer had the other Hurricanes regulation goal.

Khudobin made 28 saves to improve to 3-8-2.

Duchene and John Mitchell had the Avs’ regulation goals while Calvin Pickard made 44 saves in the loss.

Video: Jordan Staal opens the scoring with his first of the season

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Jordan Staal netted his first of the season tonight giving the Carolina Hurricanes a 1-0 lead over the Colorado Avalanche after 20 minutes.

It was Staal’s first goal since March 22, 2014.

The 26-year-old of course missed the first 35 games of the season after breaking his fibula during the preseason.

Staal now has a goal and three assists in seven games since returning.