Season Series: The Bolts and Leafs face off for the second of four meetings on the year. Toronto took the first matchup of the season two days prior to Thanksgiving, earning a 7-1 win at what was then named the St. Pete Times Forum. The two clubs will square off again on Mar. 15 in Tampa Bay and conclude the four-game season set with the finale on Apr. 5 in Toronto.
The Big Story: Tampa Bay is riding a three-game winning streak, its longest since early November, and looks to make it four straight Tuesday night as it opens up a three-game road set in Toronto. While the Lightning are beginning to look like the team that fell just one game shy of playing for the Stanley Cup last spring, the Maple Leafs have gone 0-2-1 in their past three games after sitting in the top eight of the Eastern Conference for most of the first three months of the season.
LIGHTNING – Tampa Bay opens a three-game set on the road north of the border in Canada that pits the Bolts against three opponents from the Northeast Division. The Lightning come in on a three-game winning streak and have victories in five of their past seven outings. Led by NHL goal-scoring leader Steven Stamkos, the Bolts have emerged as a team that could push for a playoff spot in the season’s second half. Stamkos had three goals in Saturday’s 5-2 win versus division-rival Carolina, each of which were set up by Martin St. Louis, who recorded his 500th career assist in the game. Teddy Purcell and Steve Downie also scored and Mathieu Garon made 24 saves to get Tampa Bay back to .500 with a 17-17-3 record.
MAPLE LEAFS - Fresh off returning from a four-game road trip, Toronto opens up a home stand of as many games Tuesday versus Tampa Bay. The Maple Leafs had established themselves as a serious contender from early October all the way through the Christmas holiday, but have since hit a bit of a skid that has them just barely hanging in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Toronto has gone winless in each of its past three games since head coach Ron Wilson received a contract extension last week, falling in two of three of those contest by just a single goal. Goaltender James Reimer, who at one time was making a case for himself on the All-Star ballot, comes in with a goals-against average that is now above 3.00 following a 3-2 loss to Winnipeg. Clarke MacArthur helped the Leafs build an early lead, but Reimer’s undoing came as a result of a three-goal second period by the Jets that forced the Maple Leafs to conclude its four-game swing away from home on a low note.
Who’s Hot: Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos enters Monday with 10 goals and 13 points over his past eight games. During that eight-game stretch, four of those goals have been game-winners, while his total of 26 on the season leads all NHL skaters. Martin St. Louis also has points in five straight games since returning from injury, while Steve Downie tied a single-game career-high with three assists on Saturday and comes into Tuesday with a plus-five rating in his past three games. For the Leafs, Clarke MacArthur and Phil Kessel are each riding five-game point streaks.
Injury Report: LIGHTNING – Mattias Ohlund (knee, placed on Injured Reserve), Nate Thompson (lower body, placed on Injured Reserve), Ryan Shannon (knee sprain, placed on Injured Reserve) and Victor Hedman (concussion, out indefinitely). MAPLE LEAFS – Tyler Bozak (shoulder, placed on Injured Reserve), John-Michael Liles (concussion-like symptoms), Mike Komisarek (arm), Mike Brown (back), Colby Armstrong (concussion/foot) and Philippe Dupuis (upper body).
Notable Quotable: “We can’t ask for more right now. They’re doing great, everybody’s finding a role and a chair to fit in. Our guys have been doing their jobs and lately it’s been a real team effort in all aspects of the game, so it’s very solid." – Lightning head coach Guy Boucher, on the current status of his team
Connections: Lightning defenseman Pavel Kubina spent three seasons in Toronto after initially leaving the Lightning following the 2005-06 season. Dominic Moore also appeared in 101 games for the Leafs from 2007 to 2009.
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