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Quick Strikes: Showdown in Tampa

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Boyle is back.

NHL: Toronto Maple Leafs at Florida Panthers Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

The Bolts

Life and death: Toronto Maple Leafs’ Brian Boyle has seen plenty of both. "Ask the recently acquired Maple Leaf about the roller-coaster ride that has been the first 32 years of his life and he shrugs his shoulders. Yes, he admits, there have been plenty of times that tragedy has tugged on his heart strings. But, in the overall scheme of things, isn’t that just part of the journey we all go through?" [National Post]

Brian Boyle prepares to face former Lightning teammates. "It's always been there," Boyle said. "There's a lot of the same guys down with injuries, the guys that were called up have been around the last couple years, they picked up quick. They're playing well. They know the staple of the their game is speed and they've got the skill guys. Goaltending has been good. We've got a tough challenge." [Tampa Bay Times]

Jake Dotchin: A Rearguard Revelation. "Jake Dotchin, a 22-year-old defenseman from Cambridge, Ontario, was called up in the wake of a Victor Hedman illness and has been a mainstay on the number one pairing (alongside Hedman) since his recall from Syracuse." [THW]

Who Should the Lightning Protect? "Among forwards the Lightning will protect, there are some names that stick out like, Nikita Kucherov and Vladislav Namestnikov. Both are young forwards under contract for a while, who it will be important to keep. There’s also Alex Killorn, who can play on any line well." [THW]

Nikita Kucherov a big reason for Lightning’s turnaround. "He probably won’t get Hart Trophy love, but Kucherov has been the Lightning’s MVP." [Raw Charge]

CrunchCast 18: First, but for how long? "The Syracuse Crunch have struggled of late for a multitude of reasons. Is this the beginning of the end for the first-place Crunch?" [Raw Charge]

Late-season matchup between Lightning and Leafs lends itself to great theatre. “It’s bad enough we lost him as a centerman but then we preceded to lose just about every other one after that, but he’s on his way back,’’ Cooper said. [Lightning Insider, subscription]

Mike Babcock on debacle in Sunrise, looking ahead to “big game” versus Lightning. "Now we have an opportunity. Tampa has been playing well. They’re right there with us. I think it’s our game in hand, if I’m not mistaken, tomorrow. That’s a huge game for our team, so we’re excited. Now, we got out here and kind of cleaned the mechanism out. Get back at her, get your joy level up, and let’s get ready." [MLHS]

The Game

PLEASE, PANTHERS, DON’T TURN AARON EKBLAD INTO ERIC LINDROS. "Aaron Ekblad is a first-overall NHL draft pick who became a teenage phenom and, like Crosby and Lindros, Ekblad is amassing an alarming concussion history at a young age." [THN]

David Backes leaves the game with a leg injury. "Backes appeared to toe-pick with the left leg, then fell face-first into the boards. He stayed down for a bit before being helped off the ice favoring his left leg." It's not just the Lightning that are suffering. [SCOC]

There Will Be Blood. "I knew it wasn’t good from the sound my cheek had made when it hit the dasher above the boards. I knew it wasn’t good because the referee had blown his whistle so quickly. I knew it wasn’t good because our trainer, John Wharton, had jumped over the boards right away to check on me." [The Players Tribune]

USF Ice Bulls make their Nationals dreams a reality. "The USF Ice Bulls made it to Columbus for the ACHA DIII Nationals and opened their tournament against the Calvin College Knights on Tuesday night." [Raw Charge]

The Leafs did such a terrible job against the Panthers Tuesday night that Pension Plan Puppets paused to remember other terrible games. [PPP]

Team USA to sit out of 2017 IIHF Women’s World Championships. "The USA National Team members dropped a bomb on Wednesday morning when they tweeted out their intent to sit out of Worlds." This is an important story about equal treatment for hard-working athletes. [The Ice Garden]

Understanding the unsealed documents from the CHL’s class action minimum-wage lawsuit. "I sifted through thousands of pages of WHL and OHL team and league financial documents. Here’s what I found." [PPP]