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GAME DAY PREVIEW- Game 36- Canucks vs Tampa Bay

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Another huge test for the Canucks as one of the NHL’s elites stop in for their annual visit.

NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at Vancouver Canucks Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

Vancouver Canucks (16-16-4) vs Tampa Bay Lightning (25-7-2)

Where: Rogers Arena, Vancouver, BC

When: 7:00 pm PST

Where to Watch: Sportsnet Pacific

SB Nation Opposition Blog: Raw Charge

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: The Canucks head into this one coming off back to back wins which were just a little surprising. Well, maybe not the Philadelphia win, that seemed like they could have put up more than 5 goals. But given Sunday’s win came in their 3rd game in 4 nights against a rested Oilers team (and the travel thrown in to boot), it was a pretty successful weekend. Now it’s their 4th game in 6 nights and they’re taking on the top team in the NHL. And yes, they have already beaten the Lightning once this season, way back in October, when Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, Jake Virtanen and Markus Granlund scored 3rd period goals to lead the Canucks to a 4-1 win. Since that time a lot has happened to the Canucks, and to the Lightning. That was the 2nd game of the season for Tampa. They’ve lost just 6 in regulation since.

The Canucks have been good since snapping that losing streak. Good, not great. They’re finding ways to win in a lot of these games, but not always being the best team on the ice. That has a way of catching up to you, and it certainly can be exposed against the truly good teams. Tonight might be one of those nights, and I am fairly confident we won’t see another game like the one these two teams played back in October.

The Lightning are coming off a couple big games against two of the NHL’s other heavyweights. In the first one, they got outplayed by the Leafs but Andrei Vasilevsky stole a 4-1 win for them. And then they went toe to toe with the Winnipeg Jets, falling in OT. That loss snapped an 8 game win streak for the Bolts, so it’s not like they’re coming in here struggling or anything.

No word yet on the potential lineups, but the Canucks likely will not make any changes, and that would include Jacob Markstrom in net. He’s been really damn good over the last few games (get that one weak goal nonsense out of your head and look at the big picture for once!), and one of the reasons that the Canucks have won 5 of their last 6. Add in stronger defensive play and the team doing a hell of a job to stop taking penalties (not to mention killing off 13 straight) and it’s a reason they’re only 5 points back of a Wild Card spot, which when you consider the losing streak is both incredible and incredibly damning as to just how bad the Western Conference is this season. Every team under the bar is playing tonight, including the Dallas Stars, who sit one point back of the Canucks. They take on the red hot Calgary Flames at home, and if there’s a team due for a loss right now, it’s Calgary. I still don’t think the Canucks being where they are is good for them in the long run, and there’s still a lot of hockey to be played. Sure. it would be great to see Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser and Bo Horvat playing some playoff hockey. But this isn’t a team that poses a threat to any of the teams above them come April. Yet.

So we head into another one of those measuring stick games. With the Canucks within striking distance of a ticket to the dance, how can they hang with a legit Cup contender? We’ll find out tonight, as the recently improved defensive play will be put to the test against the team that’s scored more goals than anyone else this season.

We’ll have any lineup info or other news for you as soon as it becomes available. The Canucks skate at 10:30 am PST and things should be clear after that.

COMETS UPDATE: Like their parent club tonight, the Comets took on one of the AHL’s top clubs Sunday night. They took it to OT but fell 2-1 to the Charlotte Checkers. The Comets have been playing well of late, going 7-3-1-0 in their last 11, which coincides with the return of Thatcher Demko’s return to the lineup after suffering a concussion during the preseason with the Canucks. Lukas Jasek scored the only goal in this one for Utica.

The Comets will be without Jonathan Dahlen as he suffered a concussion following this hit from Binghamton’s Eric Tangradi, who was given a 3 game suspension for the hit from the AHL. Tangradi had just finished serving a 1 game suspension for a hit that injured Ashton Sautner in the last meeting between these teams. Sautner suffered facial injuries in the incident and there’s no word when either will return to the Comets lineup.

The Comets are in Charlotte again tonight, puck drop is at 4pm Pacific, and if you want to listen to the game you can check out the broadcast here or here (for mobile devices).

GAME DAY BATTLE HYMN: Anyone familiar with the extreme metal scene knows how important Tampa is to the world of metal, especially death metal. 3 of the biggest death metal bands in the US call it home (Deicide, Morbid Angel and Obituary), and it’s also home to Morrisound Studios. The recording studio was the place where some of the biggest metal albums in the 80’s and 90’s were made. And it wasn’t just Florida bands recording there. Napalm Death, Kreator and Sepultura all made the trek there in the 90’s to make albums. So in honour of the visit from that team from Florida, here’s a sick live version of one of my all-time favorite Morbid Angel tracks.