The hits just keep on coming; Lightning at Toronto Maple Leafs preview

WHERE:  Air Canada Center (ACC), Toronto, Ontario
WHEN:  7 PM EST
MEDIA:  Sun Sports (cable), 620 WDAE (radio)
OPPONENT COVERAGE:  Pension Plan Puppets

Before we even get into tonight's game, there was a lot of talk yesterday stemming from the NHL GM meetings and further fallout from the Matt Cooke-on-Marc-Savard hit.  Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis both had choice words over the incident and how Colin Campbell failed to react (no suspension for the sake of (in)consistency).  

All of that being said, Mike Chen at From the Rink has an excellent comparing hits and suspensions that have been levied.  Inconsistent remains the standard in the NHL -- as what the General Managers recommended likely will not be enforced by Campbell.  That's just how ineffective he has been with rule enforcement throughout his tenure.

Below the jump, we'll fly back to Lightning Land and shed a bit more focus on tonight's game.

It was just seventeen, do you know what I mean?  Steven Stamkos point streak is now at 17 games...  Wait, wait, to get the full effect, I need to type it out: S-E-V-E-N-T-E-E-N G-A-M-E-S.  That's just INCREDIBLE.  Stamkos has notched 16 goals and 15 assists during that span, 31 points.  He's on a pace for 51 goals for the season and still has what could be looked at as the goal-of-the-season to his credit .

But the Bolts can't be a one man show and therein lies the problem:  the Bolts have been failing at being more than a one-man show (or one line show) all too often during their six-losses-in-seven-games streak.  Yes, we've seen flashes from Vincent Lecavalier (who has played well since returning form teh break) and Teddy Purcell, Kurtis Foster has also made appearances on the scoresheet. 

But it ends there.  And that's a problem.

Another problem that continues to plague the Lightning is the off-ice hijinx of management.  No, no, no, we're not talking about OK (Not Really) Hockey hijinx or anything with ownership (Jeffrey Vinik, enjoy the honeymoon!), but we are talking about Lawton-versus-Tocchet / Tocchet-versus-Jim Johnson management hijinx.  Jim Johnsojn has yet to be seen behind the Lightning bench and has not participated in on-ice practices.  Amanda Harris has an interview with Johnson, having been done before the coaching changes, to shed more light on Johnson as a coach.

There is a continuing he-said, he-said argument between Tocchet and Lawton which re-appeared durign the GM meetings in Boca Raton when Lawton was asked to "clear the air" over what went down.  Knowing that Tocchet and Lawton are at odds and knowing that Tocchet and Johnson are at odds (loyalty among professionalism), one has to wodner why Tocchet didn't resign from the Lightning?  Probably out of loyalty too, but this dysfunction that has been on display is detrimental to the Lightning's meager playoff hopes.  

Unless things turn around in coaching attitude, meager is the only way to describe things.  The defense is fallign down, the goaltending situation has been lacking the last few games...  If there is dysfunction at the top, there will be no function on ice.

Mike Smith is likely to start in net for the Lightning tonight, while J.S. Giguere will be the starter for Toronto.  Ryan Malone is taking part in the morning skate and may participate tonight in his first action since Saturday.

The Maple Leafs are 29th in the league on the power play (15.5% conversion rate) and not much better on the PK.  Inf act, they are not better at all.  They're killing off 72.3% of opposing power plays.  This game, like the one between teh two clubs in January, will be won or lost on special teams.  It'd be nice for a sound effort at even strength to limit Toronto's chances...  

NOTE:  Watch party tonight at Champions Sports Bar at  the Marriott Waterside Hotel downtown Tampa.  The Lightning are planning all sorts of goodies, so if you're in Tampa and want some company for the game -- head downtown.

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