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The Tampa Bay Lightning were the best team in last year's regular season. The Carolina Hurricanes were one of the surprise teams.

Now, early in this season, they match up for Sunday's game in Raleigh, N.C.

Both teams acknowledge they have areas to address.

"This year, there's still some question marks on some things," Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "Our guys are willing to work. Mistakes made aren't from a lack of effort. For me, it's just decision-making, sometimes trying to do too much. Those are good problems, actually."

Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper has a similar outlook.

"We're taking steps forward, but there's so much more room for improvement," Cooper said.

For Carolina, it's back-to-back games against the top two teams in the Eastern Conference from the 2018-19 regular season after Saturday night's 3-2 overtime victory -- in which the Canes trailed 2-0 -- against the Washington Capitals. That was the rematch from a heated April playoff series.

Tampa Bay also is coming off a road game against a rival after losing 4-3 to the Florida Panthers on Saturday night. It was a rematch from the Lightning's season-opening victory Thursday night at home.

The Lightning have introduced new players in the lineup, and it could take time for lines to mesh.

"New lines, new faces," said Lightning left winger Pat Maroon, who's one of the team's newcomers upon arriving from the St. Louis Blues. "The chemistry will start to flow. It's good to get out there and finally play meaningful games."

Tampa Bay gave up 37 shots in the first game and then gave up 28 shots in the rematch.

The Lightning won all three meetings with Carolina last year by a combined score of 13-6.

This is part of a busy early stretch away from home for the Lightning.

"We have to go on the road and start banking points," Cooper said.

While it's too soon to lump the Hurricanes in the top group of teams in the league, perhaps there's a perception changing with Carolina's team.

"Teams know that at least we're somewhat relevant," Brind'Amour said.

Left winger Erik Haula, who was an offseason acquisition for the Hurricanes, has scored a goal in each of the team's two games.

The Hurricanes will go with opening-night starter Petr Mrazek in goal against the Lightning. With games on back-to-back days, the Hurricanes could have turned to goalie James Reimer, but instead he made his debut with the team Saturday night.

Last season with Florida, Reimer made his season debut against Tampa Bay, coming off the bench to stop 15 of 16 shots. He also faced the Lightning three other times last season, giving up nine goals on 56 total shots, so that might have factored into Carolina's weekend decisions.

"We don't want to overload Petr early on," Brind'Amour said.

There will be a Stanley Cup reunion for Sunday's game. Along with Maroon for Tampa Bay, Carolina also has a player from St. Louis' championship team. That's defenseman Joel Edmundson, who was acquired in a September trade.

--Field Level Media