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We return to our regularly scheduled hockey program: Lightning vs. Canucks preview

After three nights off, the Lightning return to the ice

NHL: Vancouver Canucks at New Jersey Devils Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Vancouver Canucks (11-13-2) at Tampa Bay Lightning (14-11-2): GAME 28

Time: 7:30 pm Eastern Time

Location: Amalie Arena, Tampa, Florida

Broadcast/Streaming: Sun,SNV

Opponent SBNation Site: Nucks Misconduct

Preview:

While the Lightning are celebrating a return to health for a couple of their players, the Vancouver Canucks are hoping they have enough defenders to get through their 5-game road trip. Already stretched thin due to the loss of their top two blueliners in Chris Tanev and Alex Edler, the Canucks suffered another blow when Philip Larsen was knocked out of their game against the New Jersey Devils on a vicious check by Taylor Hall.

All of the injuries have forced the Canucks to ice some young players on defense. Luca Sbisa is 26-years-old. He is the oldest defender currently playing for them. Once nice surprise for them has been Troy Stretcher. The 22-year-old rookie is only 5’10 and 190 lbs, but he’s been one of their best players.

Despite their injuries (and a nine-game losing streak earlier in the season) the Canucks are only four points out of the last wild card spot in the west. Gotta love parity in the NHL. They have gone 5-4-1 in their last 10 games and hope that they can keep pace with the other teams outside of the playoffs looking in.

They’ve had trouble scoring goals (28th in the league), preventing goals (24th) and scoring with the man advantage (24th). The Sedins, Henrik and Daniel, lead the team with 17 points and have scored 4 of their 11 power play goals. Bo Hovart is right behind them in scoring while their high-priced free agent signing, Loui Eriksson, only has 11 points in 26 games.

In net, Jacob Markstrom and Ryan Miller have split the starts straight down the middle and have similar middling stats. They’ve combined for a .900 save percentage and a 2.75 GAA. The .900 save percentage partnered with a 7.52% shooting percentage add up to a league-worst .975 PDO. Maybe they’re just unlucky.

A team that is allowing goals and struggling to score could be the right opponent for the Lightning. After somehow managing to squeeze 3 out of 4 points despite scoring just 1 goal in their last two games, the Bolts need to find their offense. Line rushes at practice indicate that Coach Cooper is shaking the lines up a bit in order to find some chemistry. Being healthy for the first time in about a week might help as well.

The toll of playing 14 games in the last 25 days had started to catch up to them. Jason Garrison, Ryan Callahan and Jonathan Drouin have all missed games recently, but were seen skating on Wednesday. The team was feeling confident enough that at least one of the forwards would return as they re-assigned Michael Bournival to Syracuse on Tuesday. Luke Witkowski was briefly sent back to the Crunch, but was recalled on Wednesday.

Despite not being the healthiest, they have picked up points in their last two games, thanks in no small part to the play of Ben Bishop. In what has been an inconsistent year for him he’s been sparkling in his last two outings. Against Carolina and Washington he’s stopped 63 of 65 shots. Surely it has absolutely nothing to do with a certain blog speculating that it’s time for him to make way for Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Forward Lines

Alex Killorn - Vladislav Namestnikov - Nikita Kucherov

Jonathan Drouin - Valtteri Filppula - Brayden Point

Ondrej Palat - Tyler Johnson - Joel Vermin

Cedric Paquette - Brian Boyle - J.T. Brown

Ryan Callahan

Defence Pairings

Victor Hedman - Anton Stralmann

Jason Garrison - Braydon Coburn

Andrej Sustr - Slater Koekkoek

Luke Witkowski

Goaltenders

Ben Bishop

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Vancouver Canucks

Forward Lines

Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Brandon Sutter

Markus Granlund - Michael Chaput - Loui Eriksson

Sven Baertschi - Bo Horvat - Alex Burrows

Jack Skille - Brendan Gaunce - Jayson Megna

Defence Pairings

Luca Sbisa- Troy Stecher

Ben Hutton - Erik Gudbranson

Nikita Tryamkin -?

Goaltenders

Jacob Markstrom

Ryan Miller

Line information will be updated in the Game Day Thread.