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Gameday Preview

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
GAME: Toronto Maple Leafs (15-14-3-0) at Tampa Bay Lightning (15-10-4-3).

TIME: Thursday, 7 p.m. EST.

The Tampa Bay Lightning are looking forward to some time at home.

After playing seven of their last nine on the road, the Lightning open up a two-game homestand when they host the Toronto Maple Leafs at the St. Pete Times Forum.

The Lightning, who play five of their next six at home, lost five straight on the road before beating the Canadiens 3-2 in Montreal on Thursday.

Then on Wednesday, Tampa Bay tied the Carolina Hurricanes, 1-1 in Raleigh, NC, squandering a chance to gain some breathing room in the Southeast Division.

Trevor Kidd got the start against the Panthers on Wednesday.
Graig Abel Photograpy
The Hurricanes are in second place in the division, three games behind Tampa Bay.

"The main thing we're looking at right now is to try to stay in front of this team, because we know they're going to be there at the end," center Brad Richards said of the defending Eastern Conference champions. "We know they're going to come on."

But the Lightning, who are 3-5-1 so far in December, could be a lot further ahead.

Tampa Bay, which was outscored 19-12 in their five road losses, should get a boost in front of their home fans -- they have lost only three of their 13 games at the St. Pete Times Forum.

However, Tampa Bay, which is scoring 3.10 goals per game, the fifth-best mark in the league heading into Wednesday's games, have their work cut out for them against Toronto goalie Ed Belfour.

Belfour, whose 1.99 goals against average is the fourth-best in the league, has won nine of his last 12 decisions, recording four shutouts and giving up only 16 goals over that span.

Belfour got some rest during the Leafs' 2-2 tie with the Florida Panthers on Wednesday. His backup, Trevor Kidd, played for just the sixth time this season.

Tie Domi and Mats Sundin, both of whom have scored in two of the Leafs' last three games, scored for Toronto, which has won four of its last eight.

"Overall we played pretty good defense," said Kidd, who played in Florida for the first time since the Panthers traded him to the Leafs after last season. "We had excellent penalty killing going into overtime. They never even got a chance on net."

Maple Leafs - 33 points, 4th place, 9 PB, Northeast Division.
Lightning - 37 points, 1st place, Southeast Division.

Maple Leafs - Sundin, 16 goals; Alexander Mogilny, 22 assists and 34 points; Domi, 56 PIM.
Lightning - Martin St. Louis, 17 goals and 33 points; Richards, 25 assists; Chris Dingman and Andre Roy, 39 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Dec. 17):
Maple Leafs - Power play: 18.8 percent (29 for 154), 7th in NHL. Penalty killing: 87.2 percent (143 for 164), 4th.
Lightning - Power play: 16.6 percent (30 for 181), 15th. Penalty killing: 83.3 percent (120 for 144), 17th.

Maple Leafs - Belfour (14-9-2, 5 SO, 1.99 GAA); Kidd (1-5-1, 0, 3.85).
Lightning - Nikolai Khabibulin (15-12-3, 1, 2.64); Kevin Hodson (0-1-1, 0, 2.38).

SEASON SERIES: Maple Leafs, 1-0-0-1.

LAST MEETING: Dec. 3; Maple Leafs, 4-3, OT. At Toronto, Robert Reichel scored with four minutes left in regulation to force overtime, and Karel Pilar wrapped up the game at 3:48 of overtime. Khabibulin stopped 44 shots.

Maple Leafs - 3-7-2-0 on the road
Lightning - 9-3-0-1 at home.
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