Tonight, the Leafs are visiting the Tampa Bay Lightning. Steven Stamkos is the first player to break the 50 goal barrier this year, so fearing his impact in tonightâ€™s game is natural for all Leaf onlookers.
This is the third of four meetings between the two teams, with the Leafs getting two decisive victories in the first two encounters. During that span, the Leafs scored fourteen and allowed only four goals against. Letâ€™s hope we face a similar scenario tonight. Tank Nation meanwhile will be keenly aware that the Leafs, after a Habs win last night, are one point out of last in the Conference and therefore one off of the third overall draft choice.
That said, this is a much different Tampa team. Well, not that much different actually, just slightly improved. In reality, the difference here is the play of our boys, who have a 2-13-2 record in their last 17 games. Itâ€™s a team missing one of their top scorers in Joffrey Lupul and one that has struggled to score goals of late.
GUYS TO WATCH:
On the Leafs end, Pineapple King Mikhail Grabovski has 8 points in his last eight games while Phil â€œThe Thrillâ€ Kessel has 7 points in the same time span. On the other side of the puck, Stamkos has led the way for Tampa Bay scorinng 7 goals in his last seven games. Winger Teddy Purcell has 28 points in his last 18 games and is proving to be a very valuable commodity for the Lightning.
Stamkos is only the seventh player in NHL history to register multiple 50-goal seasons before his 23rd birthday. The other six players are: Mike Bossy, Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Joe Niewendyk, Pavel Bure and Alex Ovechkin.
James Reimer starts for his second straight as head coach Randy Carlyle finds out how he responds to a loss. Unfortunately, that’s what this season has come down to – evaluating for next season under the new coach.
On that note, Carter Ashton will play alongside Mikhail Grabovski and Clarke MacArthur tonight.
News broke today that the Leafs will be without Nikolai Kulemin for the remainder of the season due to a broken finger in what will cap a horribly disappointing season for the former 30-goal man. Toronto is also missing Joffrey Lupul up front, whoâ€™s out with a separated shoulder. Our fourth line dynamo Mike Brown is still questionable (bruised thigh) and Cody Franson suffered a facial laceration that might keep him out of tonightâ€™s game.
If anything, the Leafs can hope for Tampaâ€™s injuries provide some wiggle room in tonightâ€™s encounter. The Lightning are missing their captain, Vincent Lecavalier, defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron, winger Dana Tyrell and defenseman Mattias Ohlund who, as things stand, are all on IR. Matheu Garon and Bruno Gervais also suffered injuries.