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Game Day Preview

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
GAME: Tampa Bay Lightning (12-8-3-1) at Toronto Maple Leafs (11-11-2-0).

TIME: Tuesday, 7:30 p.m. EST.

The resurgent Toronto Maple Leafs try for their season-high fourth straight win when they take on the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Toronto advanced to the Eastern Conference finals last season, and came into 2002-03 with high expectations. The Leafs, however, started the season with just four wins in their first 15 games.

Ed Belfour signed with Toronto during the offseason, replacing Curtis Joseph in net, and he struggled in his first few appearances with the Leafs.

Belfour has turned things around of late, allowing only 14 goals in his last nine games and recording a shutout in three of his last six outings.

Belfour stopped 19 shots and Alexander Mogilny had a goal and two assists as the Leafs beat the Buffalo Sabres 3-1 on Saturday night for their third straight win. Toronto has won seven of nine.

"Crawling out of the hole is not easy, but we are getting it down," Mogilny said. "I think we have turned the corner, but I think we're a long way away from being one of the elite teams."

The Leafs' three straight victories have put them at .500 for the first time since they were 1-1 on Oct. 12.

"Now the guys are starting to feel that we are going to be fine," Toronto coach Pat Quinn said. "There was awhile there where we were feeling pretty bleak about where we were."

Tampa Bay's recent performance has been the exact opposite of Toronto's.

After starting the season strong, the Lightning are winless in a season high-tying three straight games and 1-4-1 in their last six.

The Lightning looked like they were on their way to ending that skid Sunday, but they allowed two goals in an 18-second span in the final three minutes and lost 4-3 to the New York Rangers.

"We're up 3-2 with three minutes left, we can't give up two goals like that. There's no excuses," Tampa Bay forward Andre Roy said. "We have to play 60 minutes because they didn't give up. We need these points."

Lightning - 28 points, 2nd place, 1 PB, Southeast Division.
Maple Leafs - 24 points, 4th place, 12 PB, Northeast Division.

Lightning - Martin St. Louis, 14 goals and 27 points; Vaclav Prospal, 18 assists; Roy and Pavel Kubina, 30 PIM.
Maple Leafs - Mogilny, 12 goals, 16 assists and 28 points; Tie Domi, 40 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Dec. 1):
Lightning - Power play: 15.7 percent (24 for 153), 18th in NHL. Penalty killing: 81.9 percent (95 for 116), 20th.
Maple Leafs - Power play: 21.6 percent (27 for 125), 3rd. Penalty killing: 86.3 percent (113 for 131), 5th.

Lightning - Nikolai Khabibulin (12-8-2, 1 SO, 2.60 GAA); Kevin Hodson (0-1-1, 2.88).
Maple Leafs - Belfour (10-7-2, 4, 2.14); Trevor Kidd (1-4-0, 4.23).

SEASON SERIES: Maple Leafs, 1-0.

LAST MEETING: Nov. 5; Maple Leafs, 4-3. At Toronto, Mogilny scored three goals, including the game-winner on a slap shot off Khabibulin's glove with 2:22 to play.

Lightning - 5-5-3-0 on the road;
Maple Leafs - 8-7-1-0 at home.
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