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An opponent with urgency; Tampa Bay Lightning at Toronto Maple Leafs preview

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WHERE: Air Canada Center, Toronto, Ontario
WHEN: 7 PM EDT
MEDIA: 620 WDAE (radio)
OPPONENT COVERAGE: Pension Plan Puppets

Two years ago this week, the Tampa Bay Lightning squared off against the Toronto Maple Leafs under similar circumstances: Road game in Toronto, Tampa Bay had taken already taken 3 games of the 4 game season series.

And a loss by the Leafs would hurt their playoff chances.

It's miraculous how the tables have turned for the Maple Leafs (much like they have for the New Jersey Devils). The Leafs started off horribly this season and are only six points out of playoff contention now. With only 13 games left in the season, it should give the Leafs a sense of urgency and promote more desperate play in order to climb into the 8th playoff seed in the East (or better).

It's easy to take a jab at the Lightning right now and say they aren't playing with that urgency or desperation. That's not the truth - but they have been inconsistent with it. Add to the fact they've had trouble putting the puck in net, and you have the team regressing in the standings as just and losing 6 of their last 7 games. Yes, two of those loses came with overtime points, but those are still losses.

No television tonight for tonight's game in the Tampa Bay area. With the Lightning struggling, maybe that's a good thing?

Also in the "maybe that's a good thing" column: The Bolts playing in Eastern Canada this week. Steven Stamkos is from the Toronto area and will likely have friends and family in attendance tonight, then Thursday will see the Quebec contingent of players and staff in the same situation (Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier, Simon Gagne, Marc-Andre Bergeron; coaches Guy Boucher, Martin Raymond, Dan Lacroix). Will it help> Vinny and Marty tend to have good games when visiting. We'll see then.

First things first, though, that's Toronto, tonight.

Toronto is 24th in the NHL on the power play, converting 15.8% of their opportunities with the man-advantage. The Lightning are ranked 6th (20.7% conversion rate), having solidified their standings after three power play goals against the Panthers on Saturday night.

On the other side of special teams, Toronto is 26th in the NHL while on the penalty kill. They're stopping opponents 78.3% of the time. The Bolts are ranked 12th in the league, with an 83.1% kill rate.

Dwayne Roloson should start again for the Lightning in net, while my guess is rookie James Reimer (or, as our Pension Plan Puppet friends like to call him, "Optimus Reim") will get the start for Toronto. If you see my "rookie" remark and think this is another nobody goalie the Bolts would have problems with -- think again. Reimer has played quite well in his time with Toronto and is part of the reason why they are back in contention.

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