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Leafs Back At Home Tonight

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs

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Steven Stamkos has not gone three consecutive games without a goal this season. Maybe being back home will help him prevent it from happening.

The league's top goal scorer lost his lead in the points race over the weekend, though Stamkos is surely more concerned about his Tampa Bay Lightning avoiding a third consecutive loss when they visit the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday night.

Air Canada Centre is about 20 miles south of Stamkos' birthplace in Markham, Ontario, where he became a rising star worthy of being selected first overall in the 2008 draft. The 20-year-old center is playing as though he might end up a Hart Trophy candidate, though he's coming off a quiet weekend.

Stamkos had six goals and four assists during a five-game winning streak before a 6-0 defeat at Washington on Friday. The following night, he had an assist but was among four Lightning players who failed to score in the shootout of a 4-3 home loss to Florida.

On the same day, Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby had a hat trick to move past Stamkos for the league lead in points, although Stamkos still tops the NHL with 21 goals. He hasn't gone three straight without a goal since a five-game drought from March 12-20.

The Lightning (13-8-3) have lost seven of nine when Stamkos doesn't record a goal, compared to 11-3-1 when he does.

Stamkos scored twice in the only matchup with his hometown team this season, lifting Tampa Bay to a 4-0 home victory Nov. 9. He has six goals and seven assists in nine career meetings with the Maple Leafs, including four points in four games at Toronto.

The Lightning have gone 3-0-2 in their last five visits, part of an 8-1-3 record in the past 12 meetings overall.

Since Dan Ellis shut out the Leafs three weeks ago, Tampa Bay has given up an average of 3.8 goals. Ellis and the Lightning blew a 2-0 lead Saturday, surrendering three goals in a 16:09 span bridging the second and third periods.

"I thought our effort was there," said forward Martin St. Louis, pointless in the last two games and without a goal in six straight. "We gave them a couple of their goals. We didn't make it hard enough for them to get their goals."

The Maple Leafs (8-11-3) have found it very hard to get goals.

They're third worst in the league with 48 and were shut out for the second time in four games Saturday, 3-0 at Ottawa.

"I don't know if I'd call it frustrating but it's tough for all of us," said Jonas Gustavsson, who made 25 saves. "We had some scoring opportunities but the puck wasn't bouncing for us. We just have to keep working the same way, try to improve myself and the other guys will do their part."

Toronto has been much better offensively at Air Canada Centre lately, scoring 12 goals to win three straight there. The Leafs are 6 for 12 on the power play during that run while holding the opposition scoreless in six chances.

They're kicking off a three-game homestand following losses in Buffalo and Ottawa.

Among the struggling Toronto forwards is Clarke MacArthur, who has failed to score in 11 games after totaling seven goals in his first 11.

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