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GAME DAY PREVIEW: Canucks @ Tampa Bay- Dec 8/16

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You think the Canucks have injury issues? Imagine losing the best player on your team to injury (I will let you debate that one yourselves). That's what the Lightning are dealing with again, as Steven Stamkos is sidelined yet again. But that doesn't make this team an easy mark in spite of their struggles.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Vancouver Canucks vs. Tampa Bay Lightning

4:30 PM PT - Amalie Arena, Tampa, FL

TV: SN Vancouver - Radio: TSN 1040

After that loss in New Jersey, with news that Philip Larsen is not seriously injured the Canucks can focus on trying to get this road trip back on track. The bad news is that they're playing against a team that's had to tighten things up defensively to compensate for the loss of their offensive juggernaut in Steven Stamkos. That's not what one of the worst offensive teams in the NHL wants to hear heading into a game.

Canucks
CATEGORY
Lightning
11-13-2 SEASON RECORD 14-11-2
24 Points 30
6th Division Position 4th
Lost 1
Streak OT 1
2.19 (28)
Goals For Per 60 (GF60)
2.78 (9)
2.96 (24)
Goals Against Per 60 (GA60)
2.63 (16)
14.7 (24) Power Play % 22.9 (4)
84.3 (8) Penalty Kill % 82.2 (16)
51.1 (9) Faceoff Win % 49.2 (18)
7.4 (27)
Shooting % 9.3 (9)
50.1 (13)
Corsi For % 50.0 (14)
97.5 (30)
PDO 100.8 (6)

Stats from NHL.com and www.hockey-reference.com

THE OPPOSITION

It's not just Stamkos that the Lightning are missing. They've also been without Jonathan Drouin, Jason Garrison and Ryan Callahan of late, but should be getting the first two back for this afternoon's contest. The Lightning have struggled of late, winning just 4 of their last 10 and finding themselves 3 points back of the last Wild Card spot in the East. They've decided to clamp down defensively in an attempt to stop the bleeding, and getting Drouin and Garrison back will definitely help that.

Ben Bishop will start his 3rd straight for the Lightning, and are the best team in the NHL when scoring first, and when leading after 1. One thing to watch will be the officiating. It was different, putting it mildly in the game Tuesday night, and let's not forget the Canucks last visit to Tampa, when the Canucks were granted 1 PP to the Lightning's 10. It was pretty miraculous the Canucks came out of that one with a win.

THE CANUCKS

The good news is that Philip Larsen isn't concussed too badly, as he was cleared to fly back to Vancouver (what a way to celebrate your birthday, eh?). The bad news? Alexander Edler and Christopher Tanev are still not ready to go and that means Alex Biega is on the back line tonight. Perhaps Biega's physicality can help them out, and after being a healthy scratch for weeks I am sure he's eager to make an impression. There is breaking news that the Canucks have called up Andrey Pedan from Utica, meaning the Canucks could have the Russian Bash Brothers in the lineup tonight.

The ongoing saga of Willie D continues, as he insists that despite the Sedins scoring once they reunited with Loui Eriksson, he still likes them playing with Brandon Sutter. The reason for this is baffling to many, as by any metric you wish to use, whether analytical or good ol' fashioned eye test, this combination does not work. And with Jannik Hansen returning to the lineup one day, wouldn't it make sense for the Canucks to at least try and get the Sedins clicking with someone who's got some chemistry with them as opposed to Sutter?

Ryan Miller will get the start tonight, his first since the win over Toronto on Saturday. With the Canucks playing in Sunrise against the Florida Panthers Saturday, and then up to Washington Sunday, I would bet that barring a blowout, Miller starts Saturday with Markstrom getting the nod Sunday against the Capitals. And can we talk about the insanity of this part of the schedule? New Jersey Tuesday, then down to Florida, but then back up to Washington (you know, which is like, really close to New Jersey, comparatively), for a back to back. Why not do the damn back to back with both Florida teams? It's a mind boggling situation, and just another reason why some fans feel the NHL disrespects the Canucks.

GAME DAY BATTLE HYMN

Tampa is synonymous in the metal community with death metal, home to some of the genre's biggest names, as well as the legendary Morrissound Studios, where some pretty massive metal albums were recorded. Here's a look at the best Tampa has to offer including the definitely not death metal Iced Earth (featuring my buddy, Vancouver's own Stu Block on vocals):