The Tampa Bay Lightning expect to be a healthier team when they host the similarly injury-ravaged Vancouver Canucks on Thursday night. Jonathan Drouin (undisclosed) missed Tampa Bay’s 1-0 overtime loss at Carolina on Sunday, Jason Garrison (lower-body) sat out the last two and Ryan Callahan (lower-body) missed the past four, but all three practiced Wednesday and could return to the lineup.
Vancouver Canucks vs Tampa Bay Lighning
When: 7:30 PM ET, Thursday, December 8, 2016
Where: Amalie Arena, Tampa, Florida
|11||VANCOUVER||0 (-110)||5 (-110)||190
TAMPA, Fla. — On the heels of a four-game losing streak, the Tampa Bay Lightning reverted back to a defense-first mentality.
That could spell bad news for the Vancouver Canucks, the third-lowest scoring team in the NHL, averaging 2.19 goals per game.
During Tampa Bay’s four-game losing streak, the longest since the end of the 2013 lockout season, the Lightning allowed four or more goals in each game, the first time that has happened since head coach Jon Cooper took over at the end of the 2013 season.
Since then, the Lightning have been among the stingiest teams in the league, finishing fifth in goals against last season. So in the two games since that losing streak, the defensive mentality has returned and the Lightning allowed a total of two goals while picking up three points in back-to-backs against Washington and at Carolina.
“We scored one goal in two games and remarkably we come out of it with three out of four points,” Cooper said. “So it just goes to show you that defense helps you win games and helps you get points.”
Though the defensive mindset is being reemphasized, facing one of the lowest scoring teams in the league is no reason to take anything for granted. Though Vancouver has been shutout four times this season and held to two-or-fewer goals 16 times in 26 games, any lapse on Tampa Bay’s part could help the Canucks erupt.
“In the NHL, teams that may struggle to score goals can put up six or seven,” Lightning alternate captain Ryan Callahan said. “So you can’t look at numbers or say that they are struggling offensively. The big thing for us is the way we play defensively and we can hopefully continue that trend for them. But it’s always about our game and what we are doing, not so much the other team so we don’t really look at those stats too much.”
Callahan, who has missed four games with a lower-body injury is expected to return to the Lightning lineup against Vancouver, along with defenseman Jason Garrison, who missed three games with a lower-body injury. Jonathan Drouin, a scratch on Sunday in Carolina with an undisclosed injury, participated in practice but is less certain of a return to the lineup.
The Canucks, meanwhile, will be without defenseman Philip Larsen for an unknown amount of time after he was knocked unconscious on Tuesday in New Jersey following a hard hit from Taylor Hall. Larsen was cleared by doctors on Wednesday to return to Vancouver for further evaluation.
With Larsen out of the lineup, Kevin Biega will have an opportunity to get in the lineup after he has been a scratch in all but one game this season.
“At the end of the day it’s an opportunity that presented itself and I have to go out and just play,” Biega said. “Good things happen when you just go out and play and not think too much about it.”
No matter who is in the lineup for Vancouver, Daniel Sedin knows the Canucks have to be ready for a Lightning team hungry to get back to their winning ways.
“We know they are going to be fast and play with a lot of skill and try to push toward the net,” he said. “We have to be ready to match their effort. That have a lot of talent on that team and can put a lot of pressure on.”