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Toronto Maple Leafs at Tampa Bay Lightning Preview and Game Day Thread

The first game between the two since the thrilling opening round of 2022 NHL Playoffs

Tampa Bay Lightning v Toronto Maple Leafs - Game Seven Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty images

Toronto Maple Leafs at Tampa Bay Lightning: GAME# 24

Time: 7:00 pm Eastern Time

Location: Amalie Arena

Broadcast/Streaming: BSSUN, NHLN, SN

Opponent SBNation Site: Pension Plan Puppets

DraftKings Odds: Lightning -1.5 O/U 6

Preview:

The Tampa Bay Lightning and the Toronto Maple Leafs haven’t played since the first round of the 2022 NHL Playoffs last spring. Back then the Bolts defeated Toronto 4-3 in a series and later advanced to the Stanley Cup Final, falling two victories short of their third consecutive trophy, but as many people would agree, that first-round series could have gone either way. This season both teams are again extremely close to a possibility of playing against each other in the first round. As of today, the Leafs are six point ahead of the Lightning at the second place in the Atlantic Division, while having played two more game than their opponent tonight.

The Lightning have been clearing out their cap space since Friday: first placing Philippe Myers on waivers and then sending Cole Koepke to the minors. Everything points to the fact, that Tampa Bay are preparing for the potential return of Anthony Cirelli, who hasn’t played this season yet after having a shoulder surgery last offseason. Not clear if Cirelli will be available for tonight’s match-up as the Lightning would still need another move to clear some space for him.

Cirelli’s potential return is also raising a question where a 25-year-old center would fit on the current line-up. It would be logical to expect the coaching staff to move Nick Paul to the third line and reuniting Cirelli with his common linemates Alex Killorn and Steven Stamkos. Nick Paul, however, has been a great fit on the second line, which is also confirmed by their numbers — the Killorn-Paul-Stamkos line is still top-20 in expected goal share in the whole league amongst lines, which played at least 100 minutes together at 5-on-5. Cirelli also should help the Lightning’s penalty kill, which is in the bottom third of the league so far this season.

At the morning practice, Cirelli did center the third line between Vlad Namestnikov and Ross Colton with Corey Perry dropping back to the fourth line with Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Pat Maroon. It’s a good indication that he will be in the line-up tonight, but not 100% guaranteed.

The Leafs are coming to Tampa Bay on a five-game winning streak and ten-game point streak. Over the last month, Toronto the only game they didn’t pick up at least a point was against the Pittsburgh Penguins on November 11. Toronto accomplished that despite having both of their starting goaltenders and half of their defense on injured reserve. Their previous game against the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday was just the third game this season, when Toronto dressed both Matt Murray and Ilya Samsonov for the game. The team also announced that T.J. Brodie won’t play against Tampa Bay and Calle Järnkrok is out for two weeks with a groin injury. With Järnkrok’s absence, Nick Robertson is expected to play on the second line with John Tavares and Mitch Marner and Wayne Simmonds is expected to fill a vacant spot on the Leafs’ fourth line.

To a surprise of noone, Mitch Marner is leading the team in points with eight goals and 21 assists in 25 games. His 18-game point streak has already broken the franchise record and is also the longest point streak in the current regular season. Auston Matthews is right behind Marner with 27 points, but surprisingly he isn’t the player, who leads Toronto in goals as William Nylander has overtook this spot with 13 goals so far.

With a game against the Leafs, the Lighting are starting a six-game homestand through the first half of December.

Comparison Chart:

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

Game # 24 Tampa Bay Lightning Toronto Maple Leafs
Game # 24 Tampa Bay Lightning Toronto Maple Leafs
Overall Record 14-8-1 15-5-5
Home Record 7-3-1 8-2-3
Road Record 7-5-0 7-3-2
Goals For 80 76
Goals Against 71 62
xGF 78.88 81.89
xGA 71.1 71.89
PP% 28.7% 24.1%
PK% 77.8% 79.2%
Stats via NHL and Natural Stat Trick

Tampa Bay Lightning Lines

Forward Lines

Brandon Hagel - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov

Steven Stamkos - Nick Paul - Alex Killorn

Vlad Namestnikov- Anthony Cirelli (?) - Ross Colton

Pat Maroon - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Corey Perry

Defense Pairings

Victor Hedman - Mikhail Sergachev

Ian Cole - Erik Cernak

Zach Bogosian - Nick Perbix

Goaltenders

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Brian Elliott

Toronto Maple Leafs Lines

Forward Lines

Michael Bunting - Auston Matthews - William Nylander

Nick Robertson - John Tavares - Mitch Marner

Alex Kerfoot - David Kämpf - Pierre Engvall

Zach Aston-Reese - Pontus Holmberg - Wayne Simmonds

Defense Pairings

Mark Giordano - Justin Holl

Rasmus Sandin - Timothy Liljegren

Victor Mete - Mac Hollowell

Goaltenders

Matt Murray

Ilya Samsonov