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Biega gets to play again for Canucks against Lightning

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Clay Imoo Dec 08, 2016 2:18 am 248

The Canucks take on the Tampa Bay Lightning for the first of two meetings over the next eight days. In fact, the Lightning will be Vancouver’s first opponent upon returning home next Friday to open up a four-game homestand. But first things first.

Both teams are coming off losses: Vancouver will be looking to bounce back from a tough 3-2 loss in New Jersey on Tuesday, while Tampa Bay lost 1-0 to Carolina back on Sunday.

The Lightning are getting forward Jonathan Drouin and defenceman Jason Garrison back tonight; both are returning from minor injuries.

Matchup

Vancouver Canucks (11-13-2, 24 points) vs Tampa Bay Lightning (14-11-2, 30 points)

Venue: Amalie Arena, Tampa

Time: 4:30 pm PT

TV: Sportsnet Vancouver

Radio: TSN 1040

By the numbers

  Canucks Lightning
Goals for 2.19 (28th) 2.78 (9th)
Goals against 2.96 (24th) 2.63 (16th)
Power play % 14.7 (24th) 22.9 (4th)
Penalty kill % 84.3 (8th) 82.2 (16th)
Shots for 29.2 (23rd) 29.9 (13th)
Shots against 29.6 (12th) 30.9 (19th)
Faceoff % 51.1 (9th) 49.2 (18th)

Lineup

Alex Biega draws in for the injured Philip Larsen, while Andrey Pedan has been called up from the Utica Comets but won’t play.

Tonight’s goaltending matchup will be Ryan Miller versus Ben Bishop.

D. Sedin H. Sedin Sutter
Baertschi Horvat Burrows
Eriksson Granlund Megna
Gaunce Chaput Skille
Hutton Gudbranson
Sbisa Stecher
Tryamkin Biega
Miller

What you need to know

1. Biega on the blue line

With Philip Larsen’s scary injury from Tuesday night, Alex Biega makes just his second appearance of the season. Biega’s first action was way back on October 23 against the Anaheim Ducks. And in that game, he played as a forward on the fourth line.

Biega has been the consummate teammate this season, working hard without complaining about his lack of playing time. The Canucks have been loathe to send the 28-year-old to Utica for fear of losing him to waivers.

With injuries to Alex Edler, Chris Tanev, and now Philip Larsen, the Canucks’ defensive depth is certainly being tested. With Troy Stecher, Nikita Tryamkin, and Biega, half of tonight’s Canucks blue line weren’t even on the ice in the Canucks season opener.

Tonight I’m going to get a kick out of seeing the 5-foot-10 Biega playing next to the 6-foot-7 Tryamkin.

2. Hansen help could be on the way

The Canucks reported yesterday that forward Jannik Hansen is close to returning – perhaps near the end of this current road trip. He would be a welcome addition to the forward ranks as they’ve collectively struggled to score all season (hence their rank of 28th in the NHL).

The team has certainly missed him: he’s versatile (he can slot in anywhere on the first, second, or third lines), he’s a good penalty killer, and he’s a fantastic skater. Hansen’s inevitable return will have a trickle-down effect on the lineup and will make the team much stronger overall.

Hopefully it’s sooner than later.

3. The sniper you’ve barely heard of

The main reason the the Lightning have the NHL’s fourth-best power play and ninth-best offence is a 23-year-old Russian forward named Nikita Kucherov.

Now, I may be being a tad presumptuous when I contend that you’ve barely heard of him. But Kucherov often takes a back seat to Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman, and even Ben Bishop when it comes to notoriety and recognition around the league.

But not for long. Kucherov quietly sits in second place in NHL scoring with 29 points in 26 games (trailing only the Oilers’ Connor McDavid). He has stepped up in the absence of Stamkos, and he leads the team in points, goals, assists, plus/minus, and shooting percentage.

Kucherov has been a consistent scorer throughout his short career and he’ll likely crush his previous season-high point total of 66 points amassed last year.

Prediction

The Lightning are rested, coming off their first three-day gap of the season. Also, they are welcoming back two key players. Meanwhile, the Canucks have just started a tough five-game road trip.

Look for a 4-2 Lightning win. Although I would absolutely love to be proven wrong.

See also

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Clay Imoo
I'm a Canucks season ticket member and I'm a creator of Canucks parody songs and haiku. I've also played the organ at a Canucks game. My son has caddied for Bo Horvat. More importantly I'm a husband and a father.

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