The Tampa Bay Lightning open a four-game homestand – their final extended game homestand of the season- when they meet the Toronto Maple Leafs at the St. Pete Times Forum tonight.
There is always a special excitement when one of the original six NHL clubs is in town, but more so when that team is the Toronto Maple Leafs, one of the most fabled franchises in all of sports.
But despite their history and past success, the Maple Leafs (28-29-13) are in a pitched battle for a post-season spot, currently sitting 10 points out of the final playoff position. As the games left to play dwindle, Toronto needs every point.
The Lightning, 23-32-14, are poised to play the spoiler in what will be the fourth and final meeting between these two clubs this season. Tampa Bay owns a 3-0-0 record against Toronto, including a 4-1 win last Thursday evening in Toronto.
Fresh off a successful three-game road swing, the Lightning have played some consistent hockey of late, taking Ottawa to a shootout and defeating the Florida Panthers in addition to beating the Maple Leafs last Thursday.
Martin St. Louis continues to lead all Lightning skaters with 69 points scored, while Vincent Lecavalier holds the advantage in goals scored with 28. Lecavalier has three goals and five points in three games against Toronto this season while St. Louis has two goals and five points, including the game-winner last week against Toronto. Forward Ryan Malone has three goals in three games against the Maple Leafs.
Tampa Bay netminder Karri Ramo has put together a string of outstanding games of late, compiling a 2.24 goals against average and .918 save percentage while going 2-0-1 over the last three games. His career goals against average against the Maple Leafs stands at 1.63 for three games.
The Maple Leafs are beginning a three-game road trip with tonight’s game. They got back on the winning track with an 8-6 win over the Calgary Flames on Saturday night.
Forward Jason Blake leads the Maple Leafs in points, with 43, and with goals scored with 23. With Netminder Vesa Toskala out for the season with an injury, the goaltending duties have fallen to recently-acquired Martin Gerber and veteran Curtis Joseph.
The Lightning will entertain the high-flying Washington Capitals on Thursday night, followed by the Atlanta Thrashers on Saturday. The homestand concludes when the Columbus Bluejackets make a rare appearance in Tampa on March 24th.