Vancouver Canucks at Tampa Bay Lightning
When/where: Thursday, 4 p.m., Amalie Arena
TV: SN Pacific. Radio: Sportsnet 650
The buzz: Rick Tocchet didn’t want to use the ‘S’ word Tuesday in Philadelphia where a lack of pace, push and compete led to a 2-0 loss. Yes, the Canucks played soft, and if not for a stellar 40-save performance by Thatcher Demko, it would have been a blowout. A Wednesday practice was hard on drilling home the details.
The history: The Canucks went 0-2-0 against the Lightning last season. They dropped a 5-4 decision in Tampa Bay on Jan. 12 as Steven Stamkos scored and finished with seven shots. Andrei Vasilevskiy made 36 saves, including a sliding pad stop off of Curtis Lazar with two seconds left. Elias Pettersson had two points (1-1), eights shots and 11 attempts. On Jan. 18 at Rogers Arena, the Canucks coughed up four first-period goals in a 5-2 loss. Spencer Martin got the hook after allowing four goals on 10 shots. Stamkos had a hat trick and six shots.
The hope: The Canucks revert to a three-zone structured system after getting a little full of themselves following successive wins over the Oilers. Against the Flyers, they struggled to break out of their own zone and were too passive to execute an effective forecheck.
The fear: Something gets lost in translation. You can call out your team when warranted and be blunt about the Philly flop. But it’s a fine line to keep players engaged so they don’t disengage. Worth watching.
The top guns: Fast starts by Pettersson, Brock Boeser and J.T. Miller overshadowed by combining for just five shots in Philadelphia. And the power play went 0-for-3 with just two shots. Lightning winger Brandon Hagel scored twice Tuesday in a 3-2 overtime loss at Buffalo. Has four goals and five points in four games.
The wounded: Canucks: Teddy Blueger (ankle) and Guilliaume Brisebois (upper body. LTIR). Lightning: Vasilevskiy (back, two months), Stamkos (lower body), Tyler Motte (hand), Jack Finley (undisclosed) and Roman Schmidt (undisclosed).
The quote: “It (Wednesday practice) was a message and we had a good meeting. We tell it straight. We know where we were at last game and it’s a new day. We want to continue to press accountability and maybe at Game 50, we don’t have to go through these meetings.” — Tocchet
• Di Giuseppe-Miller-Boeser
(Pettersson maintenance day Wednesday.)
The prediction: Lots of incentive. No Stamkos. No Vasilevskiy. The Bolts’ best sniper and best stopper are sidelined by injury and surgery, respectfully. Gut says Canucks respond to Tocchet’s tough talk, win 4-2.
(FAN FORUM: Do you have a specific question for a player? Pass it along to @provincesports and we’ll get it in a future edition).
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