Lightning-Canucks Preview

BY foxsports • January 9, 2016

The Tampa Bay Lightning and Vancouver Canucks have been among the biggest disappointments over the season's first half.

Only one will get the second half off to a positive start.

Seeking back-to-back wins for the first time in almost a month, the Lightning go for a fourth straight victory in Vancouver on Saturday night.

Tampa Bay (20-17-4) made a run to the Stanley Cup Final last season, losing in six games to Chicago. That increased expectations for 2015-16, making the Lightning one of the favorites to win the Cup.

They're not even in playoff position at the midway point, however, sitting one point back of New Jersey for the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Canucks aren't much better. They're third in the Pacific Division, one point ahead of Calgary, the team that knocked them out of the opening round of last year's playoffs.

Vancouver, though, is starting to show some improvement at home, winning five of seven there after a 3-6-3 start.

Bo Horvat scored his second goal with 1:06 left in regulation, putting the Canucks ahead for good in a 3-2 home win over Carolina on Wednesday.

Horvat has three goals in two games after netting two over the first 39.

Sven Baertschi is also giving Vancouver some unexpected scoring. He has four goals and two assists over the past six games after getting one of each against the Hurricanes.

The scoring depth has been timely with Daniel Sedin scoring once over the past five games while Henrik Sedin has come up empty in 10.

"We need that," second-year coach Willie Desjardins said. "It's been a tough go for Hank and Danny. They've carried us for quite a bit this year. That's not a fair thing to do.

"We've been waiting for somebody else to step us. Baertschi seems to have found his game at this level a little bit. He's playing well. He's making great plays with the puck. Bo is a strong guy. He's a good skater. They have found some chemistry with (Radim) Vrbata and we need that scoring."

Daniel Sedin and Baertschi found the net in a 2-1 win at Tampa Bay on Dec. 22. However, it was the Canucks' penalty-killing unit that was vital, stopping the Lightning on nine of 10 power plays.

"We have to make sure we're ready to skate. They're a good skating club," Desjardins said. "They've got lots of talent. We just have to make sure we're ready to skate with them."

That hasn't been the case at Vancouver, where the Lightning have won three straight meetings after going 0-8-1 with two ties in their first 11 visits.

Tampa Bay is 4-4-1 since winning back-to-back games on Dec. 14-15. The Lightning are aiming to do that again after scoring three unanswered goals in the third period of Friday's 3-2 win at Edmonton.

Tied for the team lead with 31 points, Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos are doing their part.

Kucherov has 13 points in 10 games while Stamkos has seven goals and two assists over the last nine. That stretch, though, includes a pointless performance against the Canucks last month for Stamkos, who collected eight goals and six assists in his first seven career meetings.

Vancouver acquired Emerson Etem from the New York Rangers on Friday in exchange for Nicklas Jensen and a sixth-round pick in 2017. He had three assists in 19 games for New York.

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