Gameday: Canucks won't have to worry about Stamkos but St. Louis still big threat for Lightning
Luongo back at practice with team
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING AT VANCOUVER CANUCKS
TONIGHT, 7 P.M., ROGERS ARENA
TV: TSN. RADIO: TEAM 1040.
VANCOUVER – The Vancouver Canucks won't have to face the injured Steven Stamkos or Sami Salo when they meet the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight but they'll still have to contend with Martin St. Louis.
The Lightning captain is one of the NHL's true little big men. He's listed at 5-8, although he may be smaller. He's also 38. But almost no one refers to him as too small, or too slow. Last season, at age 37, he merely led the league in scoring with 60 points in the 48-game lockout-shortened campaign.
This season he has 38 points in 39 games and is plus-11 despite having to soldier on without Stamkos, who hasn't played since breaking his leg Nov. 11 against Boston.
Canuck head coach John Tortorella had St. Louis when he was in Tampa and is not the least bit surprised that he is still a very productive player.
“He is a great model for players who have been told 'no',” Torts said. “He was told so many things, that he couldn't play in the league. He and Henrik Lundqvist are probably two of the fiercest competitors I've ever coached. He is the real stuff as far as what's inside of him. It's a great thing to look as far as the size of a player.”
The Canucks, meanwhile, will have an opportunity to move into third place in the Pacific Division and fifth in the Western Conference after the L.A. Kings, the team directly ahead of them in the standings, lost their fourth straight game Tuesday night. The Canucks are just a point behind the Kings and both have played 41 games.
Vancouver will not have any lineup changes as there are no extra healthy players on the roster. Right winger Alex Burrows (jaw), centre Jordan Schroeder (ankle) and defenceman Alex Edler (ankle) all skated with skills coach Glenn Carnegie before the full team practice while netminder Roberto Luongo (groin) was put through his paces by goalie coach Rollie Melanson.
Luongo also took part in the full team skate and appears close. He won't dress tonight, however. Luongo was injured Dec. 22 against the Winnipeg Jets when he felt something after stopping a shot by Evander Kane.
“That's what originally got me a little bit,” he explained. “I tried to stay in the game for a few more minutes but I kept feeling it during the play. I felt it again on another shot so, before it got any worse, I decided to get off. I've been skating now for a few days with Rollie. This was my first team practice and I'm feeling good and everything is progressing really well right now. I don't want to set a date. It was a good practice today and I think Friday is going to be an important day with the full team practice and all that stuff and we'll take it from there.”
With Luongo still out, Canuck netminder Eddie Lack will make his third straigh start. He enters tonight's game with a 1.84 GAA, tied for third best in the league, and a .929 save percentage, which is ninth best. He'll face the Lightning's Ben Bishop, who is 20-5-3 with a 1.89 GAA (sixth) and .935 save percentage (third).
Bishop intends to get his scouting report on the Canucks from former Canuck assistant Rick Bowness, now an assistant to Tampa head coach Jon Cooper.
“Bones know a lot of their guys and I'll be sure to talk to him,” Bishop said.
The expected top three line for the Lightning are St. Louis on right wing with centre Tyler Johnson and left winger Ondrej Palat; Valtteri Filppula between Alex Killorn and Teddy Purcell; and Nate Thompson centring for J.T. Brown and Nikita Kucherov.
Defenceman Eric Brewer and winger Ryan Malone are both expected to play tonight after missing time with injuries.
ICE CHIPS: Canuck centre Ryan Kesler has no goals in nine games and one assist in last 6 while defenceman Jason Garrison has no goals in 10 games and one assist in his last seven... The Canucks dispatched depth forward Jeremy Welsh to their Utica Comets farm team on Tuesday... Canucks are 12-4-3 against the Eastern Conference... The Lightning are 9-8-2 on the road and 11-7-4 without Stamkos... Referees for tonight's game are Eric Furlatt and Francis Charron.
INJURIES: The Canucks will be without G Roberto Luongo (groin), D Alex Edler (knee), D Ryan Stanton (ankle), D Andrew Alberts (concussion), RW Alex Burrows (jaw) and C Jordan Schroeder (ankle). The Lightning will be missing C Steven Stamkos, D Sami Salo (upper body and D Keith Aulie (hand).
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