The Tampa Bay Lightning head back out on the road after a four-game homestand, as they will matchup against the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight at the Scotiabank Arena.
The Bolts are coming into this game having gained at least a point in 17 out of their last 19 games, although two of those regulation losses have come recently in two of their last five which included the 3-0 shutout to Minnesota at home.
Meanwhile, the Leafs will be looking to extend their four-game point streak to five games as they continue their pursuit of second place in the Atlantic Division. They currently trail Boston by four points and have a game in hand on both the Bruins and Lightning, although Tampa Bay appears in no danger with a 19-point pad over Toronto.
A key matchup to keep an eye on will be the men between the pipes, as Andrei Vasilevskiy will go up against Frederik Andersen. Both goalies rank in the top-five in number of wins on the year and both sit in the top-four in save percentage for goalies that have made at least 35 starts this season. Vasilevskiy saw his 10-game win streak snapped in his last start against the Minnesota Wild, but will look to bounce back against a more offensively-potent team that possesses weapons like John Tavares, Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and Morgan Rielly.
If there is one weakness the Bolts can certainly take advantage of, it is the Leafs’ blueline. Toronto is still without defensemen Jake Gardiner and Travis Dermott who have both been sidelined since late February. Although even before their injuries, criticism of the Leafs’ defense was abundant with some saying that not making a trade deadline deal to improve the blueline was a mistake.
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The Leafs have allowed at least two goals in all their games since holding the Ducks to one goal back on Feb. 4. And even before that, Toronto has allowed at least two goals in 31 out of their last 33 games, dating back to Dec. 22. They are 19-11-3 in that span which included a 4-2 win over the Lightning.
The Bolts will also be without two of their key defensemen, as Dan Girardi and Anton Stralman both appear to still be out with lower body injuries. This will keep Jan Rutta in the lineup for the Bolts and paired up with Brayden Coburn after Rutta put on a solid defensive showing in his debut performance with the Lightning on Saturday.
Bolts head coach Jon Cooper even said that he barely noticed Rutta in the lineup, which was meant to be a compliment to the d-man’s ability to blend well into what is a top-tier NHL roster.
This game should be another solid test for the Lightning, going up against a playoff-caliber team that is playing hard and trying to scrounge up as many points in the standings as they can.
Notable Nuts and BOLTS:
-The Bolts and Leafs split the first two games of this season series (both at Amalie Arena)
-These teams will meet one more time after tonight on Apr. 4 in Toronto for the Bolts’ second-to-last game of the regular season
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
7:30 – EST
Watch: Fox Sports Sun, ESPN+
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