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Canuck Territory

by Staff Writer / Vancouver Canucks


This is it. The final game... against an Eastern team that is. At least until the post season when the Canucks hope to face an Eastern foe with the big prize on the line. For now, they're focused on the Tampa Bay Lightning, who visit GM Place tonight.

It's the Lightning's first trip to the Wet Coast in three years. The teams' last meeting was January 2, 2004.

"It's fun to play teams that you don't play often," said Brendan Morrison. "Especially a team with a couple of guys that are up there in [scoring]."

"I don't know, but we've matched up pretty good against the East here in the last couple years. Hopefully we can continue that trend here tonight."

The Canucks are 7-1-1 against the East this season and recorded a 9-1-0 record last year.

The last time the Lightning defeated the Canucks was way back in 1998, but things have changed quite dramatically since then.

Vincent Lecavalier was in his rookie season and Martin St. Louis wore a Flames jersey -most of in the AHL.

"Players change since they've come into the league," says Trevor Linden, who was playing for the Islanders back in 1998. "It's a new situation and a good opportunity for us. We understand that they have a very talented group of forwards and some special players that deserve special attention."

Lecavalier is now the league's leading goal-scorer with 42 to his credit, and ranks third overall in points with 88. St. Louis is one up on his buddy with 89 points.

"You've got to respect St. Louis's speed and Vinny's big body - he's got some good speed for a big man," said Willie Mitchell, who's likely to match up against the two tonight. "I think you'd probably play him pretty similar to Jarome Iginla, make sure you have good body position on him or else he'll probably get it to the net. Patience and always be aware when they're on the ice."


The teams don't see each other often and it's no question fans and players alike are excited for the game, but there's one person who's intensely familiar.

Roberto Luongo faced the Lightning countless times back in his Florida years playing for the division-rival Panthers.

He went 5-2-0 with a 2.27 GAA and a shutout against the Lightning last season - the Lightning are probably glad Luongo's now in the West.

"I'm excited to play them and I know when they play me they think about [previous meetings]," says Luongo. "It helps me out in one way or another and it makes them overthink things. That's a plus for me but for me it's just about doing my job - making sure that I'm aware of their key guys when they're on the ice."

He's shown he's a quick study in his first season with the Canucks. Luongo's learned about the Northwest teams posting an impressive 14-10-1 record after digging a 2-8-1 inter-divisional hole to start the year.

"It's kind of what's going on with the teams in our division, the more I get to play them, the more comfortable I feel against them. I've seen [the Lightning] a bunch of times in the past few years."

Hopefully those years will give him the upper hand tonight.

Luongo already set a career high 37 wins but if he can earn two points tonight, he will tie Kirk McLean's team record for most wins by a Canuck goaltender in a single season (38) set during the 1991-92 season.

You've heard it all year and tonight's no different for the start goalie, there's just one thing that's he's worried about tonight.

"For me right now the goal is playoffs and finishing first in our division, anything else is just gravy. It's a nice honour but going into tonight's game, it's not something I'll be thinking about. It's more about just getting the win."

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