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Match Preview: Maple Leafs vs. Lightning

by Chris Lund / Toronto Maple Leafs


TEAM UPDATES

Jonathan Bernier will take the net once again on Thursday night after coming up big in Tuesday's 3-2 win over the Panthers. He is 3-0-0 with a 1.67 goals-against average and .959 save percentage in his career against Tampa Bay.

The Leafs may have Eric Brewer in the lineup for the first time since acquiring him on Monday's trade deadline. Brewer was a late arrival when he joined the team in Sunrise and took warm up, but did not dress.

Toronto will have to be cognizant of Tampa Bay's many weapons as they look to pick up two points against Jon Cooper's squad.

"He has a lot of weapons out there," said Leafs interim head coach Peter Horachek. "They're a very good team, they're very well coached, they play a great game, they're fast and skilled. We've talked a lot about our team though. We have to play our game and play with that energy and play with that focus."

Ben Bishop will start in goal for the Lightning on Thursday night. In 11 career games against the Leafs, he is 4-5-0 with a 3.02 goals-against average and .888 save percentage. Tonight's game will be a crucial matchup for the Lightning who look to keep pace with the other top teams in the East.

Jon Cooper spoke to the similarities between the top teams and what made them winners this morning.

“If you look at them, they’ve all got good goaltending, they’ve all got exceptional defensemen and they’ve got players that can put pucks in the net,” Cooper said. “I think a lot of teams are very similar. They all play with pace…To pick somebody in the East, I couldn’t do it.”

Puck drop is set for 7:30 p.m.

RECENT RESULTS

The Leafs are coming off of a win on Tuesday night as they defeated the Florida Panthers by a 3-2 score. They are now 3-6-1 in their last 10.

Toronto is 8-20-5 on the road this season.

The Lightning enter Thursday's game after a 3-0 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday in Tampa. They are 5-4-1 in their last 10.

Tampa Bay is 24-6-1 at home this season.

LAST MEETING

The Lightning took the last meeting between the two teams shortly after Christmas. Steven Stamkos had the game winner in the third period as the Lightning rallied from 2-0 down to defeat the Leafs 3-2. Ben Bishop made 21 stops in the win while James Reimer made 38 stops in goal for the Leafs.

The Leafs are 1-1-0 against the Lightning this season.

ONE TO WATCH

Nikita Kucherov

The 21-year-old Lightning winner has made the most of his ice time this season. He is among the League's top-25 in scoring despite ranking in the middle of the League in icetime. Kucherov is slated to play on a line with Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson tonight, giving the Lightning a second line packed with young, offensively gifted talent.

Kucherov is a good skater with very good hands and offensive instincts. He has held down a spot in the Lightning lineup and been a consistent producer after bouncing in and out of the lineup during his rookie campaign.

He has been a positive possession driver for the Lightning with Tampa recording 57.7 percent of the shot attempts with Kucherov on the ice. He has more than likely been the benefactor of some good luck with a shooting percentage of 15.3, but if you focus too closely on the top unit and do not give his line the proper attention, they have the potential to win the game for the Lightning.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

Here are tonight's projected lineups for the Maple Leafs and Lightning...

Toronto Maple Leafs

Forwards

21 van Riemsdyk - 42 Bozak - 81 Kessel

47 Komarov - 43 Kadri - 18 Panik

19 Lupul - 24 Holland - 20 Booth

22 Sill - 23 Smith - 15 Lindstrom

Defence

51 Gardiner - 3 Phaneuf

44 Rielly - 46 Polak

2 Brewer - 12 Robidas

Goaltenders

45 Bernier

34 Reimer

Tampa Bay Lightning

Forwards

17 Killorn - 91 Stamkos - 24 Callahan

18 Palat - 9 Johnson - 86 Kucherov

13 Paquette - 51 Filppula - 27 Drouin

11 Boyle - 90 Namestnikov - 10 Morrow

Defence

6 Stralman - 77 Hedman

5 Garrison - 55 Coburn

89 Nesterov - 62 Sustr

Goaltenders

30 Bishop

88 Vasilevskiy

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