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Moving forward; Tampa Bay Lightning at Toronto Maple Leafs preview

Opening a three-game road trip through Canada, the Lightning may feel good about recent wins at home but they haven't done anything yet to think they've turned a corner.


WHERE: Air Canada Center, Toronto, Ontario
WHEN: 7 PM EDT | | TICKETS: Check Availability
MEDIA: Sun Sports (cable), 970 WFLA (radio)
OPPONENT COVERAGE: Pension Plan Puppets, The Leafs Nation

Borrowing and paraphrasing a remark from Tyler Johnson, two iwins in a row is a fluke. Three in a row would be a streak.

Last season, while playing with the Norfolk Admirals of the AHL, Tyler made that phrase a standard... And it got surreal by the time the AHL season was coming to a close. "27's a fluke; 28's a streak."

The point of the phrase is that you can't rest on your laurels. You've done nothing until you overcome the next challenge in front of you, even if you've mastered the challenges behind you.

The challenges in front of the Tampa Bay Lightning continue to be formidable if this team has aspirations for the 2013 NHL playoffs. Now tied for 11th in the Eastern Conference standings, that's 5 behind the likes of the New York Rangers, New Jersey Devils, and tonght's opponent - the seventh seeded Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Leafs are 4-4-2 in their last 10 games played. Without loser-points for overtime/shootout loses, that's directly on par with the Bolts 4-6-0 record in their last ten.

But that's not how the league recognizes games that are lost in overtime or the shootout - you get a point for the effort. You get points for the one-goal loss as long as it happens after the 60 minute mark of a game.

Toronto is not a team that's success this season has relied on getting the loser-point. They may be in 4th place in the Northeast Division, but they've consistently remained in the playoff picture, with offensive firepower from Nazem Kadri and Phil Kessell (both players having 27 points) leading the way. The goalie tandem of James Reimer and Ben Scrivens has also worked out well for the Leafs, with save percentages and goals-against averages nearly matching (.917 and 2.70 for Reimer,.915 and 2.63 for Scrivens).

And don't make the mistake of judging Ben Scrivens by his performance against Tampa in Tampa from a few weeks back. Ben, starting for the second night in a row and taking the entirety of the leafs starting job while Reimer was out with a knee injury, was lit up and eventually pulled in the Leafs 4-2 loss to the Bolts.

It won't be Scrivens, but James Reimer between the pipes for the Maple Leafs tonight. And for the bolts? Anders Lindback will sit and Mathieu Garon will make the start. This will, yet again, be a matchup that is dependent on the teams play in front of the goalies: Reimer's stats match up rather equally to Garon's (.915 save percentage and a 2.65 GAA). The big difference is that Garon is 3-7-0 while Reimer is 9-4-2 with a shutout to his name.

Benoit Pouliot, who has been out for a while with a shoulder injury, is on this trip with the Lightning and has been skating with the team the past few days (albeit with a red, no-contact jersey). A return during the club's back-to-back games this weekend is not out of the question, as was reported by Erik Erlendsson on Twitter.

In fact, it's the potential that Pouliot may return to the lineup that Tampa Bay may not make a recall from Syracuse after losing Ryan Malone to thuggary injury. Pierre-Cedric Labrie has been a healthy scratch far too often this season, but he can play in the NHL or he wouldn't be with this team.

Speaking of perceived losses from Monday night's win against the Philadelphia Flyers, defenseman Victor Hedman skated this morning with the team and looks like he will play. If Guy Boucher has any concerns about Hedman going into this game, he may opt for the 11/7 roster split - but adding Marc-Andre Bergeron to the mix on the blue-line doesn't necessarily make up for what the team can lose with an injured Hedman.

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