Preview: Lightning return home from grueling road trip, face Canucks
TV: FOX Sports Sun
TIME: Pregame coverage begins at 6:30 p.m.
TAMPA, Fla. — The road weary Tampa Bay Lightning return home Thursday to host a Vancouver Canucks team that has been in Florida longer this week than the home club.
Tampa Bay returns to Amalie Arena for the first time in three weeks after completing a stretch of eight consecutive games on the road, sandwiched around the All-Star break. Though the Lightning completed that part of their schedule with a 5-3 record, they ended things on a down note following a 6-2 loss in Edmonton on Monday.
“We’re not executing on breakouts. We’re spending unnecessary time in our end, which is putting unnecessary stress on our goaltenders, which is why you’re seeing a lot of shot volume against this last stretch, which is alarming for sure,” Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said. “That’s on everyone, as the forwards to get open and play hard and the D to make the easy play sometimes. So, collectively, as a group, we’re just making it too hard on ourselves. We’re in a tough stretch where for the majority of the time we’re having to play in our end and it’s definitely not working.”
The Lightning have allowed 30-or-more shots in 10 consecutive games and allowed more than 40 shots on goal twice during that stretch. Tampa Bay has allowed three or more goals in six of those games.
“Everyone has to work together,” Lightning center Alex Killorn said. “If the forwards aren’t on the same page as the D-men, that’s when you get 2-on-1s, a D-man will jump in, a forward won’t cover for the D-man. We just have to be better at working together as a unit. We’ll go to the video. We’ll see what we have to do. We’ve been getting a couple wins here that maybe we haven’t deserved, so it’s a little bit of a reality check right now.”
One of those wins came against Vancouver on Saturday, in which the Lightning had to hold on after building a three-goal lead through periods. The Canucks left town after that game and traveled to South Florida where they faced the Panthers in a 3-1 loss on Tuesday, the same day Tampa Bay returned home.
The Canucks will face Tampa Bay on Thursday minus forward Sam Gagner, who tried to practice on Wednesday, but had to leave early and will return to Vancouver to undergo tests on an ankle injury suffered on Tuesday against the Panthers, according to the Vancouver Province. Gagner had just returned after missing time with an upper body injury.
But no matter who is in the lineup for the Canucks, the message following Tuesday’s loss is to be on top of the game for more than just spurts.
“It’s a full-time job. We have to show up to the rink every day and every game,” Vancouver goaltender Jacob Markstrom told NHL.com. “We have to play 60 minutes. If we do that, we’re a good hockey team. But all year we haven’t done that consistently, and that has to change.”