The Toronto Maple Leafs will host the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight in what is the final game of a three-game home stand for the Maple Leafs.
In the first two games, the Leafs have fallen 3-2 to the Philadelphia Flyers and won 4-3 over the Buffalo Sabres. Now six points back of the eighth and final playoff spot, the Leafs must go 10-3-0 to reach 90 points and have a legitimate shot at the playoffs.
The good news for the Leafs is that they have only failed to record at least one point twice over their last ten game, going 5-2-3. However, they will need to improve their 3-26-3 record after trailing through two periods.
The Maple Leafs will be lucky to have forward Tim Brent in the lineup tonight. Brent took a high stick to the face on Saturday night against the Sabres and never returned. He said that the blade of Tyler Ennis’ stick touched his eyeball and that his eye went black for about ten minutes. The 27-year-old was wearing a visor during this morning’s morning skate and will sport one from now on.
Clarke MacArthur scored his 20th goal of the season on Saturday night; this season is the first in his career where he has reached the 20-goal mark. The Lloydminster, Alberta native is second on the Leafs with 52 points. His 20th goal also gave the Leafs four 20+ goal scorers.
Expect to see James Reimer in net tonight for the Maple Leafs. He played strong against the Sabres on Saturday, making 39 saves, and has been named the team’s official starting goalie for the remainder of the season. In 25 games, Reimer owns a record of 13-6-2, a save percentage of 2.56 and a save percentage of .922.
It should be Dwayne Rolson at the other end of the ice. Roloson has played in 44 games for the Islanders and Lightning this season, going 19-22-3 with a GAA of 2.62 and a save percentage of .912. Roloson has been more than impressive since joining the Lightning after the Islanders traded him to the sunny south earlier this season.
With six points over a four game point streak, Tampa star Steven Stamkos has been on a tear. In 69 games this season, the 21-year-old has 43 goals and 41 assists for a team-leading 84 points.
Second on the team is veteran Martin St Louis. St Louis has 26 goals and 55 assists in 69 games. With a record of 4-4-2 in their last ten games, the Lightning are just 1-4-2 in seven games this month. That 1-4-2 record includes losses to the Florida Panthers, Ottawa Senators and even their Southeast Division rival, the Washington Capitals.
Tonight’s projected Leafs’ lineup:
Kulemin – Grabovski – MacArthur
Lupul – Bozak – Kessel
Armstrong – Boyce – Crabb
Rosehill – Brent – Brown
Aulie – Phaneuf
Gunnarsson – Schenn
Lebda – Komisarek
Reimer – Giguere
*NOTE: If Fredrik Sjostrom is ready to play, he will take Jay Rosehill’s spot on the fourth line.
A win would be huge tonight for the Leafs, especially since the Sabres defeated the Senators last night, but they’re in tough against the Lightning.
Follow me on Twitter @LukasHardonk for more Maple Leafs coverage, including news, rumours, updates and opinion.