Team will play seven of next eight games on the road
If the Tampa Bay Lightning are looking to re-charge their hockey jets while on this upcoming road trip, their first stop, Toronto, a hotbed of hockey, is the place to do it.
There are few places in North America that offer the intense hockey-dominated atmosphere as Toronto, home of the tradition-rich Maple Leafs, and the Lightning will face them in the Air Canada Center tonight, on the first leg of a two-game northern road swing.
The Lightning hit the road featuring some of the most consistent goaltending in the League. To date the combination of Mike Smith and Olaf Kolzig have allowed only 17 pucks to get behind them for a Goals Against average of 2.43, good enough for seventh place in the NHL. Smith has appeared in five of the team’s seven games, and has generated a very stingy 2.13 Goals Against average.
The Lightning’s penalty kill has also served them well with a success rate of 86.7 %, eighth best in the NHL.
Despite having accumulated only five points after their first seven games, Tampa Bay is sitting just four points behind the Southeast leaders, Carolina and Washington.
The Maple Leafs skate into tonight’s game with a 3-2-3 record. Goals have been slow coming for the Maple Leafs, too, but they have been paced by veteran Nik Antropov, team leader in goals with 4 and points with 7. Netminder Vesa Toskala has been equally effective, with a Goals Against average of 2.61 over seven games.
Last season, Tampa Bay achieved a 0-1-1 record in Toronto while being outscored 9-4. Lightning big guns Vincent Lecavalier and Marty St. Louis have found past success against the Leafs, however. Lecavalier has nine goals and 23 points in his last 15 games against the Maple Leafs, while St. Louis has eight goals and 25 points in 30 career matchups with Toronto. Forward Vaclav Prospal is expected to play in his 800th career game tonight.
Tampa Bay will keep their bags packed for a bit, playing seven of their next eight games away from the St. Pete Times Forum. After tonight’s contest, the Lightning will move on to Buffalo for a game Thursday night, before flying home to face Ottawa in a brief, one-game home stand.