GAME DAY: Maple Leafs at Lightning (1/25/11)

Maple Leafs (19-23-5) at Lightning (30-15-5) 7:30pm

The Lightning looks to extend their winning streak tonight against the Toronto Maple Leafs.  Tampa Bay has won four straight coming into the second game of a 12 game homestand.  Steven Stamkos has been on an offensive tear lately with seven goals and three assists during a six-game point streak.  He now leads the league in goals (38) and points (67).

The Maple Leafs will be playing out the second half of a back-to-back.  They fell to the Carolina Hurricanes last night in a wild, offensive affair that saw winger Nikolai Kulemin leave the game after taking a punch to the face from Tim Gleason.  The final score was 6-4.

Tampa will be facing yet another desperate team in the Leafs.  They currently sit in 12th place in the conference, 12 points out of a playoff position and 18 points behind the Northeast division leading Boston Bruins.  While not mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, their chances are minimal at best.  They are fighting to keep their season alive.

The Lightning received some reprieve from the division race when the New York Rangers beat the Washington Capitals in a shootout last night.  The Bolts now hold a two point lead over the Caps.

This will be the third of four games between the two.  The Lightning took the first two games, both in November.  The first win was a 4-0 shutout while they won the second game 4-3.  However, that was at a different time for the Leafs.  Toronto had gotten off to a promising start, and their season didn’t look quite as dismal.  Now, they are fighting for their lives.  How big of a fight they put up is up to them.

Dwayne Roloson continues to play well for the Lightning between the pipes.  He has won his last three starts with a combined save percentage of .940 and a goals against average of 1.67.  Look for him to get the start tonight as Boucher continues to ride his hot hand.

The Lightning seem to be clicking at the perfect time, with ten more home games in a row after tonight.  If they play well enough, they could bury the rest of the division in a hole too deep to climb out of by the end of February.  With that to play for, there should be no room for a letdown. “Should” being the key word.

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