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Maple Leafs' Bernier set to face Stamkos, Lightning

by Mike Brophy

LIGHTNING (15-13-3) at MAPLE LEAFS (10-13-5)

TV: TVA Sports, SUN, SNO

TORONTO -- Jonathan Bernier will be looking for his first win of the season Tuesday when the Toronto Maple Leafs host Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning at Air Canada Centre.

The 27-year-old goaltender is returning to the team after spending two weeks in the American Hockey League with the Toronto Marlies on a conditioning stint. Bernier, who is 0-8-1 with a 3.28 goals-against average and .888 save percentage for the Maple Leafs, was 3-1-0 with three shutouts for the Marlies.

Bernier said facing the Lightning is just another game for him.

"I just have to put everything aside and focus on my game," Bernier said. "I am excited. The last two weeks have been good for me. There were a lot of positives, so I just want to carry that feeling I had in my games into tonight's game and keep building."

Bernier said getting three wins and three shutouts in the AHL has given his confidence a boost.

"When you play games you feel good about yourself," he said. "Obviously I got some wins there, so I feel pretty good."

The Maple Leafs return to action after having a week off. Their last game was a 3-2 shootout win against the New Jersey Devils on Dec. 8. Right wing Joffrey Lupul, who missed five games with a lower-body injury, also returns to action.

Lupul said the other players will do their best to try to get Bernier a victory, adding that's the thought process every game.

"I didn't even realize that he hadn't won a game yet," Lupul said. "We want to win this game for us, but you want him to get some confidence going as well. Obviously this isn't how he saw his year going, with a stint in the American league, but he went down there and did the work and played really well. He's an NHL goalie who just needs to get his confidence back. Any way we can help him do that, we want to help."

Toronto coach Mike Babcock is confident Bernier can turn his season around.

"He had three real strong games in the minors and one not-so-good, so we need him to be good," Babcock said. "He wants to be good and we want him to be good. We had a plan, we stuck to the plan, and now the next part is the execution obviously at our level. He is a proud guy and a good pro. He has been a good goalie in the League."

Defenseman Frank Corrado will play his first game for the Maple Leafs. The 22-year-old native of Toronto was claimed off waivers from the Vancouver Canucks on Oct. 6 and has practiced with the team, but has yet to see any game action.

"He's a great kid," Babcock said. "He's honest and works hard every day. He has gotten a lot stronger since he's been here. He wants to be a player. We haven't given him the opportunity, but he has an opportunity now so let's see how he does."

Stamkos, the Lightning’s captain and top scorer, got tongues wagging last week when he "liked" a TSN post on Twitter regarding the possibility of him signing with the Maple Leafs next summer. Stamkos, 25, is slated to become an unrestricted free agent following this season.

"Obviously, I didn't intend for it to blow up," Stamkos told the Tampa Times. "I know exactly what happened, and I know the people (Lightning players) in this room that know me and care about me, know exactly what went on. I hope people can see what went on and move on."

Stamkos eventually "unliked" the tweet. With the Lightning having played in Columbus on Monday night, no players were made available to the media on Tuesday morning.

Here are the projected lineups:


Vladislav Namestnikov - Steven StamkosNikita Kucherov

Alex KillornBrian Boyle - Jonathan Marchessault

J.T. Brown - Valtteri FilppulaRyan Callahan

Joel VerminYanni Gourde - Brian BoyleMike Blunden

Anton Stralman - Victor Hedman

Jason Garrison - Matthew Carle

Braydon Coburn - Andrej Sustr

Ben Bishop

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Injured: Erik Condra (lower body), Cedric Paquette (upper body), Tyler Johnson (undisclosed), Jonathan Drouin (lower body), Ondrej Palat (undisclosed)

Scratched: Nikita Nesterov


James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - PA Parenteau

Peter Holland - Nazem Kadri - Leo Komarov

Michael Grabner - Nick Spaling - Daniel Winnik

Shawn Matthias - Byron FroeseJoffrey Lupul

Jake Gardiner - Dion Phaneuf

Matt Hunwick - Morgan Rielly

Frank Corrado - Roman Polak

Jonathan Bernier

Garret Sparks

Injured: Stephane Robidas (groin), James Reimer (lower body)

Scratched: Martin Marincin, Brad Boyes

Status report: Reimer continues to practice with the Maple Leafs but there is no timeline for his return.

Who's hot: Kadri had two goals in a 4-1 win against the St. Louis Blues on Dec. 5 and then scored the shootout winner against the New Jersey Devils on Dec. 8. Bozak has assists in back-to-back games. Polak has three assists in two games. … Kucherov has three goals in three games.

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