Quick Strikes: Otto Somppi scores first AHL goal in Tampa Bay vs. Toronto prequel

And childhood friends Steven Stamkos and John Tavares face off in the Blue and White Bowl

The Bolts

Steven Stamkos and John Tavares were childhood best friends (and often teammates) back in Ontario, Canada. Now, both are on the two best teams in the NHL and preparing to face each other in the much anticipated contest between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs. [NHL dot com]

“John and I both wore 19 growing up,” Steven Stamkos said. “You’d think the coach’s son would have first pick picking the number but I was wrong. He let John pick the number first and he took 19. So it was John’s fault I switched to 91.

Tampa and Toronto are the cream of the crop, but what about the rest of the conference? Check out the newly revived Around the East series. [Raw Charge]

With Nylander finally back in the fold, the Leafs are working their way back to having a full lineup that they can run consistently every night. The Leafs clearly want Nylander and Matthews playing together, but as of right now — while Nylander gets back up to speed — Matthews is with youngsters Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson, while Nylander has been skating with veterens Nazem Kadri and Patrick Marleau. Will that change in time for Thursday night? Or has Mike Babcock stumbled upon a new, deeper lineup combination.

Will Andrei Vasilevskiy be back in time to play the Maple Leafs? Time will tell, but here is what we know about his situation so far. [Raw Charge]

So far during Vasilevskiy’s absence, Louis Domingue has started all but one of the fifteen games. The Lightning have only lost three games during that time with Domingue picking up eleven of the wins and Pasquale grabbing the other in his only start. Domingue has been especially good recently, earning the second star of the week from the NHL for his recent play.

Stamkos has had an incredible career so far. He’s accomplished a lot and put up some impressive results. But some can’t help but wonder ‘what if’ when it comes to those two massive injuries. What is in those Stammer Lost Years? [The Hockey News]

Maybe there’s something fitting in that, too, because Stamkos has had his share of stumbles and falls on his way to the 700-point plateau, with injuries robbing him of some quality time during the very prime of his career. It’s true that were it not for those injuries, Stamkos would have hit the 700-point milestone a whole lot sooner. In fact, if we take into account one injury in particular and the lockout-shortened campaign that cost he and his NHL compatriots roughly half of a normal, 82-game season, Stamkos was robbed of what very well could have been two of the highest scoring campaigns of his career.

Can someone photoshop a Santa costume on TJ? I would really enjoy the visual.

The Prospects

In the middle of an 8-1 embarrassment of the Toronto Marlies, Syracuse Crunch rookie Otto Somppi scored his first career AHL goal. The goal itself says a lot more about the Marlies’ season thus far, but a goal’s a goal!

(And if you’re a Crunch fan who lives off the tears of Marlies fans, I’ll have a recap of this game over at PensionPlanPuppets.com. And yes, I do hate myself enough to write about a 8-1 loss).

Did the old bucket get its screen smashed? Or did you drop it in the toilet again.

The Game

STOP TRADING TYSON BARRIE!!!!! - Avs fans to other Avs fans. [Mile High Hockey]

It should be noted that while Barrie has the best shot suppression numbers on the team, those numbers are aided by his nearly 59% offensive zone starts. That said, Barrie still has more defensive zone starts per game than each of Girard, Zadorov and Nemeth.

Looks like the Brits aren’t letting a simple air conditioner breakdown stop them from playing some hockey. Keep Calm and Carry On!

Check out these cool pads!

Highlight of the Night: I’ll give $5 for anyone who can name Dallas’ backup goalie from that GIF alone.