|Hurricanes take crack at high-flying Lightning|
RALEIGH, N.C. -- Thanks to a sterling opening stretch to the season, the Lightning hold the best record in the NHL.
However, Tampa Bay isn't the only team pretty fired up about how the season has started.
On Tuesday night, the Lightning visit the Carolina Hurricanes, who will play at home for the first time in two weeks.
"We've got to tighten up and be on the top of our game," Carolina coach Bill Peters said, noting Tampa Bay's offense.
The Hurricanes (3-2-1) have skated in a league-low six games. They are coming off a 2-2-0 road trip.
That is a notable mark for the first road swing. In past seasons when the team was away in October because of the North Carolina State Fair on the grounds adjacent to the arena, there were miserable results.
Still, there were holes in the performance during a 4-3 loss at Dallas on Saturday, something Peters addressed Monday while also pointing out a limited schedule has prevented the team from finding a groove.
"I'm trying to see us be more consistent in the way we play," he said. "We weren't happy with the way we played (the fourth game of the trip), and that's the taste you're left with. ... Just the ideal of accepting your role and becoming comfortable."
Tampa Bay (7-1-1) has made the most of its opening stretch.
"I like where we stand," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "I look at our first two games of the season and a few weeks later how we're playing compared to then. It's night and day. Guys really bought in to the way we need to play."
Tampa Bay players lead the NHL in several categories. Steven Stamkos has a league-best 18 points, and Nikita Kucherov shares the lead with 10 goals. Goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy owns a league-high seven victories.
Stamkos reached 600 points for his career on Saturday in the Lightning's 7-1 rout of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Now he is looking for more.
"I personally think I have a lot of improving to do," Stamkos said. "I think there's some more left. I'll just continue to try to get (points) every game."
As for playing with Kucherov, Stamkos said, "He's so hot you want to get him the puck."
Cooper said that seeing Stamkos in a groove as he has been in the past couple of weeks is rewarding, and not just on the offensive end.
"The injuries (in the past) have kind of upped and downed his game," Cooper said. "He's really becoming a more well-rounded player."
The Lightning are 7-1-1 in their past seven games in Raleigh.
Carolina will have defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk available after he returned to action during the latter part of the road trip. He missed time after sustaining a concussion in the opener.
The Hurricanes sent forward Martin Necas, who appeared in one game last week at Edmonton, back to HC Kometa Brno, his junior team in the Czech Republic. The 18-year-old didn't play in either of the regular-season home games, so his home-ice debut will come in a future season.
"Next year when he comes back, he'll be hungry and knocking on the door," Peters said.