The Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs are in different situations, but they are going into the game with the same mindset Tuesday and that is one of desperation.
"This is do or die for them," head coach Jon Cooper said. "Our desperation is different."
Continuing to cling to their playoff hopes the Maple Leafs need a win Tuesday to stay alive in the Wild Card hunt.
"Their backs are against the wall, they're running out of games and they're running out of time to catch up," Cooper said. "We're going to get everything the Leafs have tonight and I don't know what that's going to be."
The Lightning have already cemented a spot in the postseason, but a two-game skid has put them behind the Montreal Canadiens in the standings and currently without home ice in Round 1. It also gives the Bolts less cushion between themselves and the two Wild Card teams behind them, the Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets, who are within six points of Tampa Bay.
Combined with the fact that the Lightning want to shrug off its past two games in which it has gone 0-2-0 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum and has been outscored 9-3 in that span, is more than enough reason to expect an environment close to what lies ahead in the coming weeks.
"We're expecting low-scoring, tight checking games now until the playoffs," Steven Stamkos said. "Guys need to sacrifice their bodies by taking hits and blocking shots. That's how you win in the playoffs, so I wouldn't expect anything different tonight."
A Toronto loss and a Columbus Blue Jackets win would officially eliminate the Maple Leafs from playoff contention Tuesday, while a Bolts' loss would keep the Lightning four points behind the Canadiens and even in games remaining (three).
KOSTKA RE-JOINS TEAM
A week removed from suffering a concussion, blueliner Michael Kostka took to the ice for the first time with his teammates during Tuesday's morning skate while wearing a red, no-contact jersey.
Kostka reported no ill effects as he continues to "gradually pick things up."
"I'm feeling better every day," Kostka said. "I wouldn't be moving forward if I was having any symptoms."
Kostka is currently following concussion protocol, as he and the Bolts training staff is being cautious not to push the limit.
"That's the tricky thing," Kosktka said, "sometimes you don't feel much then all of a sudden something pops up. You have to be really careful with the process to make sure you get back as soon as possible."
Since the injury, Cooper has called on multiple players in his defensive unit, including Andrej Sustr, who was recalled from the team's American Hockey League affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch, last week. Sustr scored his first career goal in his first game back Saturday.
MORNING SKATE: LINES
Lines stayed the same from Monday's practice, however Cooper did not confirm if they would stick Tuesday night.
Cooper also did not elaborate on who would be in or out of the lineup with an explanation that there were still decisions to be made.
MORNING SKATE: NETMINDER
Ben Bishop will start for the Lightning Tuesday night versus the Maple Leafs.
While Cooper did say that he does not think Bishop will play all four games remaining on the Bolts' schedule, he did say he is confident in the way they have been using the Lightning goalie thus far this season.
OTHER ODDS 'N ENDS
Tampa Bay is 1-2-0 versus the Leafs this season, but won its most recent contest, 5-3, against Toronto at Air Canada Centre on March 19. Steven Stamkos scored a natural hat trick in the victory.
Vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman signed a four-year contract extension with the Lightning Monday. Read more about Yzerman's tenure here.
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