Lightning-Maple Leafs Preview

The Tampa Bay Lightning are still out of the playoff picture in

the Eastern Conference, but they’ve been working their way back

in.

The Toronto Maple Leafs need to improve their penalty killing or

they could keep heading in the opposite direction.

The Lightning go for a season-high fourth consecutive victory

when they try to extend their point streak in Toronto to eight

Tuesday night.

A game from advancing to its second Stanley Cup finals last

season, Tampa Bay (17-17-3) closed out 2011 in 12th place in the

East with 37 points – four back of 10th-place Toronto

(18-15-5).

The Lightning, though, are riding a 5-1-1 surge that has

followed a 1-7-0 skid.

The hot streak has been due in part to center Steven Stamkos,

who helped Tampa Bay close out a 3-0-0 homestand Saturday with his

fifth career hat trick. He has netted 10 of his league-leading 26

goals in the last eight contests.

“He is pretty hot,” right wing Martin St. Louis said of

Stamkos, who has 17 points in 13 games versus Toronto. “He’s

flying.”

So is St. Louis, who has three goals and seven assists during a

seven-game point streak.

The Lightning are also hoping for continued production from

Steve Downie as they open a three-game trip through Canada. Downie

leads the club with seven points during the winning streak.

Tampa Bay last won four in a row during a five-game run March

26-April 3.

The Lightning lost 7-1 at home to the Leafs on Nov. 22, but they

have gone 5-0-2 in Toronto since a 6-1 defeat Dec. 10, 2007.

The Leafs, who snapped a four-game skid to Tampa Bay in the

November matchup, will try to rebound from a 1-2-1 trip as they

open a stretch of nine of 10 at Air Canada Centre. Toronto, though,

has gone 5-5-4 on home ice since winning its first three there this

season.

Better special teams play could help the Leafs end their season

high-tying three-game slide. They have killed off a league-worst

72.4 percent of penalties after surrendering a pair of power-play

goals in a 3-2 loss to Winnipeg on Saturday.

“It’s obviously something we work on a lot and talk about a lot

and we’re trying to get better at,” James Reimer said after making

32 saves.

If Reimer gets his seventh consecutive start, it will be the

first time he faces Tampa Bay since giving up five goals in the

Lightning’s last visit, a 6-2 loss March 14.

Reimer is 0-2-0 with a 3.92 goals-against average in this

series.

Teammate Jonas Gustavsson is 2-0-3 with a 2.54 GAA against the

Lightning after stopping 27 shots Nov. 22.

Dwayne Roloson gave up six goals in that contest to snap his

four-game winning streak against Toronto, while Mathieu Garon

stopped four of five shots as a third-period replacement.

Garon, who has started Tampa Bay’s last seven games, is 1-1-0

with a 3.94 GAA in three starts in Toronto.

Leafs leading scorer Phil Kessel ended a four-game point drought

against the Lightning with an assist on one of Tyler Bozak’s two

goals Nov. 22.

Toronto’s Joffrey Lupul scored in that game to extend his point

streak against Tampa Bay to six. He has two goals and five assists

during that stretch.