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Vancouver Canucks at Tampa Bay Lightning preview: That felt like a bye-week, didn’t it?

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After plenty of time in between their first two games, the Bolts host the Canucks as their next opponent.

NHL: Vancouver Canucks at Tampa Bay Lightning Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Vancouver Canucks at Tampa Bay Lightning: GAME 2

Time: 7:30pm Eastern Time

Location: Amalie Arena

Broadcast/Streaming: SunS, SN360, SNP

Opponent SB Nation Site: Nucks Misconduct

Preview:

Well, that felt like an eternity, didn’t it? It’s been five days since the Tampa Bay Lightning last played a hockey game, and not only did it seem like an unofficial bye-week, but they’ve only played one game this entire season. Fortunately, the Bolts aren’t alone; the Florida Panthers, New Jersey Devils, and the Edmonton Oilers haven’t played since Saturday night, either.

On the other hand, tonight will be the Vancouver Canucks’ fourth game of the season. After winning their home opener against the Calgary Flames, the Canucks dropped their next two games and head into Tampa Bay looking to reverse their fortunes.

The extra week off likely worked out in Tampa Bay’s favour by allowing players to recover from injuries; it appears that Tyler Johnson will make his season debut tonight. Johnson was plagued by an undisclosed upper-body injury during the preseason and wasn’t healthy enough to dress in the opening game. Johnson took regular line rushes at practice on Wednesday and according to head coach Jon Cooper, we should see Johnson in the lineup tonight.

Cedric Paquette was also a question mark to play after suffering a hand injury in the season opener when Troy Brouwer skated over his glove during a faceoff. He was a full participant in Wednesday’s practice in a regular jersey, and if he isn’t fully recovered for tonight’s game, his return shouldn’t be too far away.

Their extra break between games should mean that Tampa Bay hits the ground running as soon as the puck drops. They struggled to get anything going in the first period on Saturday, allowing the Panthers to carry most of the play. Their breakouts were dismal, and most of their passes failed to connect. Had it not been for Andrei Vasilevskiy and a stellar penalty kill, they might not have been as lucky to walk away with two points.

The Bolts might have swept Vancouver easily last season, but they’ll be facing a different, younger, faster version of the Canucks this time around. The Sedin twins might be gone, but Swedish rookie Elias Petterson has picked up the slack, leading Vancouver with six points (including a point in every NHL game he’s played).

The Lightning’s penalty kill last season was brutal, but if their shorthanded performance on Saturday night was any indication, it looks like those struggles are behind them. Not only did they kill five penalties (three in the third period), they even scored shorthanded. Their penalty killers may need a similar performance; Vancouver’s powerplay is sizzling at 36.4% (seventh best in the NHL).

Brock Boeser has struggled to regain his impressive form from last season, and that will be one less thing for the Lightning to worry about. They will already have their hands full with Pettersen and Bo Horvat, who have serendipitously clicked on Vancouver’s powerplay. Although the pair has started the season on separate lines, it may not be long until they’re united at even strength to get some offense going.

The Canucks aren’t the strongest team defensively, relying heavily on Jacob Markstrom to make saves. They’ve allowed the sixth-most shots in the league, and their blueline, save for Derrick Pouliot, is slow. Vancouver has struggled to keep up with their opponents’ speeds, and that’s one thing that the Lightning have an abundance of. If Lightning use their speed to sustain pressure on the cycle and pepper Markstrom with shots, they should come out on the right end of the score. If they have another slow start and allow Vancouver’s powerplay to get going, it may be a long night.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Forward Lines

Ondrej Palat - Steven Stamkos - Nikita Kucherov

Yanni Gourde - Brayden Point - Tyler Johnson

Alex Killorn - Tony Cirelli - Mathieu Joseph

J.T. Miller - Cedric Paquette - Adam Erne

Cory Conacher - Danick Martel - Ryan Callahan (injured)

Defense Pairings

Victor Hedman - Dan Girardi

Ryan McDonagh - Anton Stralman

Braydon Coburn - Mikhail Sergachev

Goalies

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Louis Domingue

Vancouver Canucks

Forward Lines

Brendan Leipsic - Bo Horvat - Brock Boeser

Nikolay Goldobin - Elias Pettersen - Loui Eriksson

Sven Baertschi - Brandon Sutter - Jake Virtanen

Tim Schaller - Jay Beagle - Markus Granlund

Antoine Rousell (injured)

Defense Pairings

Alexander Edler - Chris Tanev

Derrick Pouliot - Erik Gudbranson

Ben Hutton - Troy Stetcher

Goalies

Jacob Markstrom

Anders Nilsson