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Canucks, Lightning look to get 2014 off to fast start

by Brian Hunter

LIGHTNING (23-12-4) at CANUCKS (23-11-7)


Last 10: Tampa Bay 6-2-2; Vancouver 7-1-2

Season series: This is the first of two games between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Vancouver Canucks. They haven't faced each other since Jan. 10, 2012, a 5-4 shootout win for Vancouver at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

Big story: The Lightning hope 2014 brings them the return of star scorer Steven Stamkos sooner rather than later, though for the time being they're managing just fine without him. The Canucks are surging as well and have hardly missed a beat with rookie Eddie Lack filling in for Roberto Luongo.

Team Scope:

Lightning: This is the start of a four-game Canadian road trip for Tampa Bay, with trips to face the Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers and Winnipeg Jets forthcoming in the next week. The Lightning dropped seven straight on the road at one point after Stamkos broke his leg, but they carry a three-game road winning streak into the new year.

However, the Lightning will be looking to get back in the win column after going 0-1-1 on a brief homestand. They gave up three power-play goals on as many opportunities Sunday in a 4-3 loss to the New York Rangers.

"We have to get back to pushing the pace and keeping the puck moving forward," captain Martin St. Louis said. "We did that in the third period [against the Rangers] and gave ourselves a chance. It seems like since the break we've lost a little bit of our identity."

Canucks: Despite allowing a late lead slip to away and falling 4-3 in a shootout to the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday, the month of December was good to Vancouver, featuring a 10-1-2 record that helped move the Canucks from a fringe contender for the Stanley Cup Playoffs into solid top-eight positioning.

The Canucks are fourth in the NHL with a 2.24 team goals-against average. Lack, who has started the past two games, has a 1.84 GAA in 13 appearances.

"I like the way we are playing," forward Daniel Sedin said in the Vancouver Sun after the loss Monday. "You can say we are not scoring enough, but we are winning games. I like the way we play, we play really solidly defensively. It's a good feeling in this room, we know we are not giving up a lot of chances and that's the way I think we have to play. Goals are going to come. We are finding ways to win. We didn't do it tonight but I think we have so far."

Who's hot: Valtteri Filppula has four goals and six assists in his past seven games for the Lightning. Tyler Johnson has two goals and one assist during a three-game point streak. … Jannik Hansen has goals in consecutive games for the Canucks. Dan Hamhuis has four assists in the past three games.

Injury report: Tampa Bay defensemen Eric Brewer (arm) and Sami Salo (upper body) remain day-to-day. Stamkos (leg), defenseman Keith Aulie (hand) and forward Ryan Malone (ankle) are on injured reserve. … Luongo (lower body) is day-to-day for Vancouver. Defenseman Ryan Stanton (ankle) is out indefinitely. Defenseman Alexander Edler (lower body) and forwards Jordan Schroeder (ankle) and Alexandre Burrows (jaw) are on injured reserve.

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