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Lightning wrap up six-game homestand vs. Canucks

by David Kalan

CANUCKS (31-29-10) at LIGHTNING (36-24-7)


Last 10: Vancouver 4-5-1; Tampa Bay 4-4-2

Season series: The Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Vancouver Canucks, 4-2, in their only previous game this season on Jan. 1 at Rogers Arena. This will be the last time the teams play in the 2013-14 regular season.

Big story: The Canucks will look to pick up two points so they can stay in the Western Conference wild-card race against the Lightning, who are eyeing their third straight win, but have the Montreal Canadiens hot on their heels in the chase for the Atlantic Division's last automatic Stanley Cup Playoff spot.

Team Scope:

Canucks: As Vancouver struggles to keep pace in the Western Conference playoff race, there might be some light at the end of the tunnel. The Canucks have won two of the first three games on their current four-game road trip, which ends on Monday in Tampa Bay, and three of the past five games overall. Of those three wins, however, two have come in the shootout. Vancouver currently has just one regulation win in the month of March, a span of eight games.

On Sunday afternoon, the Canucks edged the Florida Panthers in a shootout, 4-3, in a game that may have been more emotional than most between the teams considering the recent trade of goaltender Roberto Luongo from Vancouver to Florida. In addition to defeating their former goaltender, however, the two points will be pivotal to any hopes the Canucks have for making the postseason. While the Canucks are within reaching distance of the final wild-card spot points-wise, each team ahead of them in the standings has multiple games in hand.

Lightning: The Lightning will close out a six-game homestand on Monday night when they host the Canucks. Tampa Bay is looking for its third straight win and some much-needed breathing room in the standings. The Lightning are currently in a tight battle with the Montreal Canadiens for third place in the Atlantic, but have a decided advantage with two games in hand. That battle might not be quite so tight if the Lightning hadn't lost the first three games of their current homestand, though two of those defeats did come in a shootout.

Tampa Bay appears to have rebounded from the string of defeats, winning two games in a row and seeing an explosion of offense to boot. The Lightning scored eight goals over the past two games. Their most-recent game, a 3-0 win against the New Jersey Devils on Saturday, might have been a been a sign that the team has turned a corner in the eyes of coach Jon Cooper.

"The way we played tonight not only wins games in the regular season," Cooper said. "It wins games in the playoffs."

After facing Vancouver, Tampa Bay will go on a three-game road trip with stops against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators and Pittsburgh Penguins.

Who's hot: Canucks forward Alexandre Burrows has three goals and three assists in the past four games. ... Lightning goalie Ben Bishop made 23 saves to shut out the Devils on Saturday night. The win was Bishop's 31st on the season, setting a new franchise record.

Injury report: Canucks forwards Ryan Kesler (knee injury) and Daniel Sedin (hamstring injury) are out, as is defenseman Andrew Alberts (concussion). … Lightning defensemen Brian Lee (knee surgery) and Mattias Ohlund (knee surgery) remain out.

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