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Lightning hope to rebound against Leafs

by Magalie Lafreni?re
MAPLE LEAFS (17-25-9) at LIGHTNING (19-20-10)

Last 10: Toronto 3-7-0; Tampa Bay 4-5-1.

Season Series: This is the third of four meetings between the teams. The Lightning defeated the Maple Leafs in overtime, 2-1, on Nov. 3, and Toronto took a 4-3 decision on Nov. 25. Vincent Lecavalier and Ryan Malone scored in both games, while Jonas Gustavsson suited up for the Leafs in both contests.

Big Story: While things were looking grim for Tampa after a disastrous loss to the Rangers on Tuesday, the Lightning are still in the race as they're just four points out of a playoff position.

Team Scope:

Maple Leafs: With Toronto's 4-3 loss to the Thrashers on Tuesday, the Leafs have won just two of their last 12 road games. Alex Ponikarovsky scored twice in the first period in a span of 32 seconds and the Leafs kept the Thrashers tied at two until the start of the third, when Atlanta got two quick goals. Niklas Hagman scored his 18th of the season to make it a one-goal game, but Atlanta held on.

"Generally, I felt like we did a good job tonight," said Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson. "We just shot ourselves in the foot a little bit with penalties. We controlled the game but turned the puck over and gave up some soft goals and it hurt us."

Lightning: Tampa Bay will have to rebound in a big way on Thursday after falling to the Rangers, 8-2, in New York. Lecavalier scored late in the first period to make it a one-goal game, but the Rangers scored 72 seconds later and regained control. Antero Niittymaki was pulled after allowing five goals on 20 shots and was replaced by Dustin Tokarski for the final 24 minutes. The rookie goaltender didn't fare any better, allowing three goals on 11 shots. Alex Tanguay scored on a 5-on-3 power-play late in the second period.

"They out-hit us, they outplayed us, they out-everythinged us, they outcoached us," said coach Rick Tocchet. "Their leaders out-did our leaders, their grinders out-did our grinders. Our goaltender got out-goaltended.

"The only thing good was the bus was on time for this game. The bus driver was the best thing we had."

Who's Hot: Tomas Kaberle has had a point in his last three games, while Ponikarovsky has had three goals and an assist in his last two for the Leafs. … With his goal against the Rangers, Lecavalier extended his point streak to five games. He has seven points during that span. Tanguay has five points in his last five games after going pointless in the previous five.

Injury Report: Leafs defenseman Mike Komisarek (upper-body) is out for another week and center Mikhail Grabovski (broken wrist) is on the injured reserve, but center Wayne Primeau (knee) could make his return to the lineup Thursday.  For the Lightning, goaltender Mike Smith (strained neck) is out and left wing Todd Fedoruk (knee) sat out Tuesday's game against the Rangers.

Stat Pack: Hagman has had the most success against the Lightning this season with two goals and an assist. The left wing also fought with Bolts defenseman Lukas Krajicek on Nov. 3.

Puck Drop: "You have to look yourself in the mirror. We have a two-week stretch of games coming up and we're either going to be in the hunt for playoffs … (or) if we're so far back, it's going to be awfully hard to get back. You have to learn and realize at some point that we can't play flat like we did tonight." -- Lightning defenseman Mattias Ohlund

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