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Bolts aim to keep winning streak alive against red-hot Canucks

The Lightning and Canucks have each won seven consecutive games heading into Tuesday's matchup

by Bryan Burns @BBurnsNHL /

Whatever tonight's result, somebody's going to extend their win streak to eight games and somebody's going to have to start all over.

The Tampa Bay Lightning and the Vancouver Canucks both enter tonight's tilt at AMALIE Arena (7 p.m. puck drop) on matching seven-game win streaks, the longest active streaks in the National Hockey League and tied for the fourth-longest runs in the League this season.

The Lightning have been doing their damage against mostly teams from their own division. Six of the Bolts' seven wins on their current run have come against Atlantic Division foes. The Lightning, in fact, have won 14 in a row over the Atlantic. Only Sunday's 3-1 win at Carolina, the second half of a challenging back-to-back for the Bolts, came outside of the division.

Video: Cooper on match-up with red hot Canucks

Now the Lightning will test their mettle against the Pacific, another division they've had considerable success against. Tampa Bay is 2-0-0 against Pacific opponents this season, has won five in a row over the Pacific dating back to last season and is on a seven-game point streak versus the division (6-0-1).

Following tonight's game against Vancouver - one of just three home games for the Lightning in the month of January - the Bolts will host Arizona on Thursday, the Coyotes currently second in the Pacific, two points behind Vegas but with a game in hand.

"We've been playing pretty well here the last six, eight weeks," Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. "I think our goaltending's given us a chance to win every night. We've had a little bit of belief in games we've gone down. We haven't really changed the way we've played. We've been pretty consistent. We've played hard. You get all those things kind of going together, much like the team we're playing tonight, wins will usually follow, and that's what's been going on."

Like the Lightning, Vancouver has been piling up wins thanks to its defense. On the Canucks' seven-game run, they've limited their opponent to two or fewer goals in five of those contests. Goalie Jacob Markstrom is having a career year and was an addition to the Pacific Division All-Star Game roster after Vegas goalie Marc-Andre Fleury decided not to attend the League showcase.

Markstrom is on a six-game win streak. His counterpart in the Lightning net, Andrei Vasilevskiy, has won five in a row and leads the NHL for wins since December 1 with 10 victories.

"They're just as hot as we are," Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said of Vancouver. "Great talent on that team, some really good young players that have blossomed into elite players over the past couple of years. A team that has a high-octane offense that we're going to have to be aware of. But I think the thing that has really impressed me about their team is just kind of the way they work. They're relentless on pucks. They've got some big bodies up front. They've been a really good team so far this year, so it's going to be a really big test for us."

The Lightning can match the third-longest win streak in franchise history with a victory tonight over the Canucks. They're only three more wins from tying the longest Tampa Bay win streak of all-time, that coming last season when the Lightning reeled off 10 victories in a row on their way to tying the NHL record for regular season wins with 62 by season's end.

So what's changed for the Lightning from right before the Christmas break when they were outside of a playoff position and still searching for ways to win games to now where it seems all of the breaks are going their way?

Video: Hedman on Bolts staying confident

"I think the outside was concerned. Inside this room, I don't think we were concerned," Stamkos said. "I think really the last two months, we've played some really good hockey. We don't necessarily, some of those games, have the points to show for it, but we felt like we were playing the right way and now we're finding ways to win games. And it's been nice. Anytime you go on a stretch like that, we talked about going on a little bit of a run, get those games in hand that we've had, we needed to get points in those, and we have."

The Lightning only play three games at AMALIE Arena in January, two of them coming this week. They have seven more games in 11 days until the week-long break that rolls into All-Star weekend.

"We just can't allow ourselves to get comfortable because who knows, it can turn quick in this league," Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman said. "We know it's important matches and we've got a lot of games leading up to All-Star break, every two days there's a game, there's back-to-backs, we've just got to stay fresh for the games and take them game by game. Today we're playing a team that's also on a winning streak. One is going to have to continue that and we want to make sure that's us."

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