Leafs Work On Solidifying Playoff Positioning
MAPLE LEAFS (25-15-5) at LIGHTNING (17-24-4)
TV: RDS, TSN, FS-F
Last 10: Toronto 6-3-1; Tampa Bay 2-6-2
Season series: Third and final meeting of the regular season. The home team has won each of the first two matchups. Benoit Pouliot set up three goals as the Tampa Bay Lightning claimed a 4-2 victory on Feb. 19 before the Toronto Maple Leafs turned the tables and won by the same score on March 20 behind three assists from Nazem Kadri.
Big story: The final stretch begins before Toronto takes to the ice in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in nine years. The Maple Leafs will try to finish off a three-game road trip by beating the Lightning and the Florida Panthers, then hope they still have a chance at home ice in the first round when they return to Air Canada Centre to play the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday.
Maple Leafs: What had been the longest current postseason drought in the NHL finally came to an end Saturday as Toronto claimed a 4-1 win in Ottawa. James van Riemsdyk, acquired in an offseason trade, scored a pair of second-period goals to get the Maple Leafs going, then Kadri, a first-round pick in 2009 who has blossomed into a star in the making, added insurance in the third along with Joffrey Lupul. James Reimer rebounded from a rough outing with a gem, as he stopped 49 shots to tie a career high.
"We are far from done here," defenseman Ryan O'Byrne told the Toronto Sun. "We made the playoffs, but we want to make a long run. That is our next goal now. These next few games are a lead-up toward that."
Lightning: Veteran defenseman Mathieu Roy, who spent the 2010-11 season in the Tampa Bay organization and played four games with the Lightning, was signed to a contract Tuesday for the remainder of the season. Tampa Bay Times beat writer Damian Cristodero tweeted the move would allow the Lightning to send young blueliner Radko Gudas to Syracuse to help the American Hockey League team compete for the Calder Cup. The Lightning come off a 3-2 loss to the Hurricanes on Sunday in which Steven Stamkos scored his 28th goal of the season.
Who's hot: Phil Kessel has five assists in the past two games for the Maple Leafs. Lupul has goals in consecutive games and 10 for the season in just 13 games. … Stamkos trails Alex Ovechkin by two goals in the Rocket Richard race, while Martin St. Louis leads the League in assists with 42. Sidney Crosby continues to lead the scoring race with 56 points, with St. Louis one behind and Stamkos two points back.
Injury report: Pouliot is day-to-day for Tampa Bay after missing Sunday's game for undisclosed reasons. Goalie Anders Lindback did return to start after missing a month with an ankle injury and stopped 25 of 28 shots against Carolina.