Considering the Tampa Bay Lightning were one of the NHL’s worst defensive teams last season, it wasn’t surprising that they struggled in their first game of 2009-10.
The Carolina Hurricanes’ defensive issues in their road opener were much harder to see coming.
The Hurricanes try to bounce back from their worst defensive performance in more than a year Tuesday night when they look for an eighth consecutive win against the visiting Lightning.
Carolina (0-2-0) allowed the eighth-fewest goals in the league a year ago with goalie Cam Ward enjoying the best season of his career, but hasn’t gotten off to a good start to 2009-10 on either end of the ice. The Hurricanes lost their home opener 2-0 to Philadelphia on Friday, then gave up 42 shots Saturday in a 7-2 loss at Boston.
Carolina hadn’t allowed that many goals since a 7-1 defeat at Buffalo on March 14, 2008.
“We were bad in pretty much every area we could be,” coach Paul Maurice said.
To make matters worse, Carolina will be without one of its potential top scoring threats for at least a month. Erik Cole, who was reacquired from Edmonton in March after spending his first six seasons with the Hurricanes, fractured his leg in the loss to the Bruins.
That leaves star center Eric Staal without one of his linemates, but for the foreseeable future he’ll be flanked by Sergei Samsonov and Tuomo Ruutu – his wingers last season until Carolina traded for Cole.
“I’m not worried,” Staal told the Hurricanes’ official Web site. “Obviously (Cole) is a good player and he brings a lot to the table, but I can still be successful whether he’s on my wing or not. We’ll obviously miss him when he’s gone, but we’ll be alright without him.”
Staal shouldn’t be too concerned about facing the Lightning (0-1-0) considering his team won all six meetings against their Southeast Division rivals last season. The former second overall draft pick was one of the biggest reasons why, scoring eight goals and assisting on three others, highlighted by his first career four-goal game in a 9-3 win at Tampa Bay on March 7.
Only Toronto, Atlanta and the New York Islanders allowed more goals than Tampa Bay did in 2008-09, and there didn’t seem to be many signs of improvement in its first game of the new season.
The Lightning added defensemen Mattias Ohlund, Matt Walker and Kurtis Foster in the offseason in addition to No. 2 overall draft pick Victor Hedman, but couldn’t seem to stop Atlanta on Saturday. Tampa Bay outshot the host Thrashers 39-28, but lost 6-3.
“Obviously, we were expecting a better result,” said winger Martin St. Louis, who had two goals on five shots. “We’re not going to let this define our season. There’s no need to panic.”
Hedman assisted on one of St. Louis’ goals for his first career point.
St. Louis had two goals and an assist last season against the Hurricanes, while Vincent Lecavalier finished with three goals and two assists in the season series.
The Lightning have lost six straight games at Carolina, last winning in Raleigh on Nov. 8, 2007.