The Tampa Bay Lightning look to rebound from two straight losses when they begin a long four-game road trip against the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday. The Lightning, who also journey to Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg, were one of the surprises during the 2013 portion of the season and will be tested by playing seven of their next eight games away from home. The Canucks are coming off a 10-1-2 December and join the Lightning in the top six of the league in goals against.
The Lightning have the third-most points in the Eastern Conference (50) and are 11-7-4 since two-time Maurice Richard Trophy winner Steven Stamkos suffered a broken leg. Vancouver allowed only 20 goals in 13 December games, including three shutouts, and stands seventh in the Western Conference. “We feel we’re going to win every game,” Canucks forward Daniel Sedin told the Vancouver Sun. “For sure, we’ve won games because of this mindset.”
TV: 10 p.m. ET, Sun Sports (Tampa Bay), TSN (Vancouver)
ABOUT THE LIGHTNING (23-12-4): Defenseman Eric Brewer and left wing Ryan Malone might return from injuries on Wednesday, and veteran blue-liner Sami Salo could be back soon. The Lightning will need the extra experience and depth as they play 11 games over the first 19 days of 2014, including eight away from home. Rookies Nikita Kucherov and J.T. Brown, who have been playing on a pesky third line with center Nate Thompson, remained with the team despite Malone’s return as left wing Pierre-Cedric Labrie was demoted.
ABOUT THE CANUCKS (23-11-7): With No. 1 goalie Roberto Luongo out the last four games due to a groin injury, backup Eddie Lack is 3-0-1 with a .931 save percentage as the Canucks gain confidence for first-year coach John Tortorella. “You get a new coaching staff with new systems and new ways to play, and a run like this really solidifies everyone’s belief in the style of play and our identity,” defenseman Dan Hamhuis told the Sun. Daniel and Henrik Sedin lead the Canucks with 35 points apiece.
1. Lightning RW Martin St. Louis, who has a team-best 38 points, is two behind former Tampa Bay coach Rick Tocchet for 89th all-time with 950.
2. The Canucks lead the league in penalty-killing (89.7 percent) after allowing only two power-play goals in 34 chances during December.
3. Tampa Bay G Ben Bishop, who sat out the 4-3 loss to the New York Rangers on Sunday, has gained at least a point in each of his last eight games (6-0-2).
PREDICTION: Lightning 4, Canucks 2