The two highest scoring teams in the National Hockey League will meet tonight when the Tampa Bay Lightning host the Toronto Maple Leafs at Amalie Arena.
Toronto leads the league in total goals (120) and average goals a game (3.33). Tampa Bay, at 118 goals and 3.19 goals per game, is second in both categories.
"They've got a lot of guys that can put the puck in the net," said Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop, who will make his second-straight start tonight since returning from a lower-body injury that kept him out of four games. "We need to know where they are at all times."
The Maple Leafs have four players – Phil Kessel (17), James van Riemsdyk (16), Tyler Bozak (13) and Nazem Kadri (11) – in double figures for scoring and have tallied four goals in each of their last two games.
"They've got lots of skill, and they're a track-meet team," Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. "If you want to get in the skill game with them, it's an issue…That's what's scary about the Leafs, if you don't stick to your structure, they'll get you."
The Maple Leafs are playing the second half of a back-to-back set tonight. Sunday against Florida, they allowed four unanswered goals in the third period to fall 6-4.
Toronto had been undefeated (14-0-0) when leading after two periods before last night's loss to the Panthers.
"For whatever reason, it's always a tight game with these guys," Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said. "I know they probably didn't play their best third period last night…We had them coming off a tough loss last time and they took it to us in Toronto. We'll be prepared."
Toronto owns a 5-2 home victory over the Lightning already this season (Nov. 20). The Leafs had lost three in a row prior to that win, including an embarrassing 9-2 loss to Nashville two days before hosting the Bolts.
Toronto's victory over the Lightning ignited a stretch of hot play for the Leafs, who, starting with the Bolts, won 10 of its next 12.
"As for motivation, I think we're more motivated because they beat us, and we have to beat division teams," Cooper said. "This is a big one for us because they're kind of nipping at our heels in the standings."
Tampa Bay is at the top of the Atlantic Division standings with 48 points. Toronto is fourth in the Atlantic but just five points behind the Bolts.
Entering Monday, the Lightning are second in the Eastern Conference and only a point behind first place Pittsburgh.
DROUIN, PALAT QUESTIONABLE
Cooper said Lightning left wings Ondrej Palat and Jonathan Drouin would be game-time decisions for tonight's matchup against the Leafs.
Palat practiced Sunday but wasn't on the ice for the Bolts' morning skate Monday. Cooper said the skilled forward is banged up but not seriously.
"It's a whole conglomerate of things," Cooper said. "The way he plays, I'm surprised he doesn't get banged up earlier in the season. But, it's a couple nagging things here that have flared up on him. It's not a sickness, let's get that one out of the way."
Drouin, who missed the Carolina game and the last two days of practice due to sickness, was on the ice for morning skate. There's a "good chance" he'll play tonight according to Cooper. Drouin returned to his spot on the Bolts' top line during morning skate line rushes alongside Stamkos and Cedric Paquette.
"He's another game-timer," Cooper said. "We have a lot of game-time decisions, so if you were scouting our pre-game skate, it's not going to tell you much."
Drouin said he started to feel ill on Christmas and was sent home prior to Saturday's pre-Carolina-game skate. Sunday, his energy level had nearly returned to normal, and he spent practice riding the bike to keep his fitness level up.
Drouin said the sickness was similar to the bug that hit Radko Gudas and Tyler Johnson earlier in the month.
"I didn't get the stomach pains or anything, it was more I wasn't hungry and had no energy to do anything," Drouin said.
Lightning defenseman Jason Garrison was not on the ice for Monday's morning skate, and the veteran blue liner won't play tonight according to Cooper.
The Bolts head coach hopes to have Garrison back for the opening game of a four-game road trip, which starts Wednesday in Buffalo.
I was kind of bummed out," Cooper said. "I thought he'd be able to go tonight, but he can't."
Garrison exited the Lightning's loss on Long Island (Dec. 20) after the second period and didn't return. He's missed the last two games with an undisclosed injury.
"He's close. He's really close," Cooper said.
Garrison practiced for the first time Saturday but wasn't a full participant for Sunday's training session after experiencing a setback.