Lightning (17-24-4, 38 Points) vs. Maple Leafs (25-15-5, 55 Points)
Fox Sports Florida; AM 970 WFLA
This is the third and final meeting between the Bolts and Leafs. The clubs have split the first two games thus far in the season series, winning a game each in their own arenas. Each team’s victory this year has also come by the same two-goal margin, as both contests were decided by a 4-2 score.
The Big Story:
Tampa Bay looks to snap a six-game losing streak, while the Maple Leafs are seeking their second consecutive victory. Furthermore, both Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis continue in their quest to be crowned league leaders in a pair of statistical categories, as Stamkos trails only Alex Ovechkin by two goals in the Rocket Richard Trophy race, while Martin St. Louis sits one point behind the injured Sidney Crosby for the league lead in points.
LIGHTNING – Tampa Bay plays in its penultimate home game Wednesday evening, as well as the first in a back-to-back set, as the team will play the Bruins in Boston on Thursday to make up for an earlier season game that was postponed due to snow. The Bolts come in to the game with losses in six straight, hoping to reverse their recent winless streak that continued on Sunday evening with a 3-2 loss to the division-rival Carolina Hurricanes. Tampa Bay got behind early once again, as it headed into the first intermission down 3-0 after only 20 minutes. But as has been the team’s trademark this season, the Lightning fought back again, coming to within one on a pair of goals from Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis. That was as close as the team would come however, in a game during which Anders Lindback made 25 saves in his first action since missing nearly three weeks due to a high ankle sprain.
MAPLE LEAFS – Toronto travels to Tampa Bay for the second game of a three-game road trip that ends the very next night, on Thursday, in Sunrise against the Panthers. The Maple Leafs just this past weekend clinched a playoff berth for the first time since the 2003-04 season, thanks to the team’s 4-1 win over the Ottawa Senators. James van Riemsdyk scored twice, and Nazem Kadri and Joffrey Lupul also had goals to support an impressive 49-save performance by goaltender James Reimer. Ottawa’s goal came from Jakob Silfverberg and brought the Senators to within one heading into the final frame, but two Toronto tallies in the third proved enough to not only hold off Ottawa, but send the Leafs to the postseason as well.
Tampa Bay forward Benoit Pouliot has collected two goals and four assists over his past seven games for the Bolts, while defenseman Matt Carle has recorded a point in seven of his past 12 games, notching a goal and eight assists during that stretch. Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel is riding a two-game assist streak with five in that span and Cody Franson has a goal and three points in his past pair of contests as well.
LIGHTNING – None. MAPLE LEAFS – Carl Gunnarsson (Lower Body).
Connections: Lightning defenseman Keith Aulie appeared in 57 games with Toronto throughout his NHL career prior to being acquired by the Lightning towards the tail end of the 2011-12 season.
Twitter Stat Pack:
The Bolts have gone 5-2-1 over their last eight home games.
The Lightning have gone 7-3-1 against the Maple Leafs in their past 11 home contests.
Tonight's game features three of the top 10 players in NHL scoring (St. Louis, Stamkos and Kessel).
Both Tampa Bay and Toronto rank in the top five in average goals per game, with the Lightning ranking third in the league at 3.09 and the Maple Leafs fourth at 3.07.
Martin St. Louis is one of two players (Chris Kunitz) in the NHL this season to not have consecutive point-less games, as St. Louis has recorded 12 points (five goals, seven assists) over his past 10 games and ranks first in the NHL with 42 assists.
“They want to get some momentum to play with in the playoffs, and we’re trying to get momentum for us for next season, so this is going to be one of those games where we want to get off to a better start and show our fans that the last game wasn’t what we’re all about.” – Lightning head coach Jon Cooper, on the matchup against the Maple Leafs
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