Toronto Maple Leafs v Tampa Bay Lightning

“Game of the Night” is a feature that takes a daily look at the best game on the NHL schedule, and sets it up for you. So y’know, you should probably watch the game below. This is brought to you by the Werner Ladder Company (check out their hockey vid here), because how else do you think the bulbs in the red goal light get changed?

***

Who:

Tampa Bay Lightning at Toronto Maple Leafs

Records:

Tampa Bay Lightning: 13-15-1 (last 10: 4-6-0), 11th in East, 27 points

Toronto Maple Leafs: 15-12-2 (last 10: 4-4-2), T6th in East, 32 points

Justification:

I’m writing up something else on the Blackhawks/Ducks later today, so I thought I’d keep the site diverse. And hey, it’s the wildly popular Leafs vs. Stamkos and crew. Fun!

Head-to-head:

The Lightning won their only other battle 4-2 in Tampa. After tonight, they’ll have one game left against each other.

Puck drop: 7:00 p.m. EST

Need to know:

* Steven Stamkos is once again comfortably in the lead for the Rocket Richard trophy, having scored 21 goals on the year so far (he just hit 200 for his career, fourth youngest ever to get there behind Gretzky, Lemieux and Hawerchuk).

* The Leafs haven’t managed to grab two points in five straight games and need to stop the bleeding.

* Toronto has this going for them: it sounds like Vincent Lecavalier has a broken bone in his left foot, so he didn’t make the trip to Canada. Not good for a Tampa team that needs to start climbing the ladder.

* Phil Kessel is on a four game point-streak, accumulating seven points over that span.

* Goaltending has been suspect over the Leafs’ drought – Reimer has allowed 8 goals on his last 76 shots, and Scrivens has given up 10 on his last 81. Not great.

Player stats: 

leafslightningstats

Injuries (via NHL.com):

Lecavalier is out with a lower-body injury, and forward Benoit Pouliot is out with an upper-body injury. … Outside of bumps and bruises, the Maple Leafs are a healthy team.

Goaltenders:

Toronto: James Reimer (confirmed)

From DailyFaceoff.comReimer has allowed four goals in four of his last five starts. Although he has won two of those games, he comes into tonight with two losses in a row.

Lightning: Mathieu Garon (confirmed)

From DailyFaceoff.comGaron has only made one start since March 4th and he was on the winning side of a 4-1 game vs. Carolina. He is 3-7-0 with a 2.65 GAA and .915 SV% this season

What I’m looking forward to:

First and foremost, the obvious: watching hockey’s best goal-scorer, Steven Stamkos, play a little puck against a defense that’s showing signs of being more porous than they seemed at the beginning of the season. Also, the Leafs are likely trying to figure out their situation in the crease. Is James Reimer going to be a legitimate NHL starter, or do they need to patch that hole at some point?

And of course, Nazem Kadri is about as good as anyone at landing pretty little touch passes on teammates’ sticks, which is about as entertaining for me as anything else in a hockey game. Between him and Martin St. Louis, you can expect to see more dishin’ than you would on Thanksgiving. (…Let’s all agree to pretend I never wrote that last sentence.)

And the biggest reason of all…. JAKE GARDINER. I don’t know if you heard, but the Leafs called him up, and all eyes will be on him.

Prediction:

I think you’re going to see an awfully close hockey game here, as both teams desperately need these points. But with Tampa missing Vinny, I’ll say the Leafs pull out the victory.

Game of the Night prediction record:

3-4-0

Below .500 and picking the Leafs? This could get ugly.