The Carter; Tampa Bay Lightning versus Toronto Maple Leafs preview

Carter Ashton makes his Tampa Bay Times Forum debut tonight....as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

WHERE: Tampa Bay Times Forum, Tampa, Florida
WHEN: 7:30 PM EDT | | TICKETS: Check Availability
MEDIA: Sun Sports (cable), 970 WFLA (radio)
OPPONENT COVERAGE: Pension Plan Puppets

The Toronto Maple Leafs obtained Carter Ashton from the Tampa Bay Lightning a little more than two weeks ago for defenseman Keith Aulie. We've heard from former GM Brian Lawton that Leafs GM Brian Burke was all hot for Ashton as early as 2010 (and that Lawton had been offered a terrible deal at the 2010 NHL trade deadline in Burke's attempt to obtain Ashton).

Now Tampa Bay gets a first-hand look at what they gave up. Ashton was promoted to the Maple Leafs on March 7th and made his NHL debut that night against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Since then, he's played four games, recording a total of 6 shots on goal and is minus-1 while averaging 12:12 in ice time a night.

The promise of the future may be the bright spot for the Leafs to focus on at the moment. They fired Head Coach Ron Wilson earlier this month, replacing him with Randy Carlyle, and are winless in their past five games. They come to Times Palace tonight on the second half of their spring break sojourn through Florida.

Meanwhile, Keith Aulie - you know, the other half of the Ashton deal? He's being brought along at a steady pace in Tampa. He's currently plus-1 and averaging just over 10 minutes of ice time in his six games with the Bolts so far this season. His physical side has been unveiled from time to time. While he hasn't been afraid to drop the gloves, he hasn't been reckless about it, either.

It's a game of young stars tonight in Tampa...that or a game of Toronto trying to play the spoiler. The Leafs playoff chances live at just less than half a percentage point right now (according to Sports Club Stats). The Lightning isn't much better off, but they are still breathing. A lot of things have to go right in order for the Bolts to remain in playoff contention much longer.

But the Leafs season is all but toast and local media is picking at the scabs of the season. Note that, Toronto Media, not necessarily the fans. Sure, fans are discontented and a bit bitter about how the season had so much promise and then flamed out... But no one is stupid enough to call for the trading of Phil Kessel in order to rebuild the team!...

...Except Damian Cox, who thinks dealing the 24-year-old center (who is among league leaders in points and goals) would be ideal for Toronto. The establishment of a young centerpiece isn't enough for Toronto because Kessel hasn't done it all. It's time for the Leafs to throw more crap against the wall and see if that sticks better than the sticky Kessel (who isn't crap).

But let's not fault Cox too much for being a troll; it's just more of the same stupidity.

Dustin Tokarski starts in for the Lightning once again, and James Reimer will likely be between the pipes for the Leafs... Dion Phaneuf, Luke Schenn and the Maple Leaf defense will be charged with stopping Good Ontario BoyTMSteven Stamkos. Stamkos leads the league in goals-scored with 50 - 12 more than 2nd place Evgeni Malkin. Stammer is also tied for the league lead in points with 84 - sharing that first-place standing with Malkin.

Other Previews

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