The Pacific, the bottom tier; Tampa Bay Lightning versus Vancouver Canucks preview

The Pacific Division is a close race... a close race at the bottom of the standings in the overall NHL.

Where: Amalie Arena, Tampa, Florida | When: 7:30 PM EST
Radio: 970 AM WFLA | Television: FS Florida Sun | Twitter: Live Stream
Opponent Coverage: Nucks Misconduct, Canucks Army, Canucks Corner

The Pacific Division of the NHL is the lower tier of the overall league standings, with six of the seven division clubs in the bottom third of the NHL standings. While the Los Angeles Kings are 7th overall in NHL standings, the San Jose Sharks, Vancouver Canucks, Arizona Coyotes, Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames and Anaheim Ducks are spread between 20 and 29 in the overall league with 29 to 34 points. Tonight's Lightning opponent, the Canucks, are ranked 21st in the league - 35 games played, a 12-14-9 record, an 89-102 goal differential and 3-5-2 in their past 10 games played.

The Sedin brothers are well above the rest of the team in offensive production - 35 points scored by Daniel (15 goals, 20 assists) and 31 by Henrik (9 goals, 22 assists). It's a pretty solid drop-off after that, with Jannik Hansen having 20 points (10 goals, 10 assists) and Radim Vrbata next with 17 (10 goals, 7 assists). All in all, the club has nine players in double-digit points and five of them have 15 or more points.

Offensive drought or not in Tampa Bay, the Lightning have 11 players with double-digit point totals for the season and five of their own players with 15 or more points for the season. Steven Stamkos leads the club with 25 points (14 goals, 11 assists) and Nikita Kucherov is second on the team with 23 (12 goals, 11 assists).

Outputs and production isn't the only thing to focus on with the game though, it's in the crease and the guy standing near it. Ben Bishop is likely starting tonight for the Lightning, helping set the stage for a physical rivalry to resume. Bishop has had issues and conflicts with Brandon Prust over the years. Scrums, being speared, other physical contact and screenings; it's something to keep an eye out for during the game. Prust is averaging only around 6:30 in ice time, so if he does play (he's also appeared in only 24 games) his opportunity to have any interaction with Bishop will be limited.

While the Lightning are likely still without Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Jonathan Drouin and J.T. Brown, forward Cedric Paquette was participating in the morning skate with a normal jersey on. Paquette has only played 10 games this season, the last one being on November 14 against the Florida Panthers.

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