MAPLE LEAFS (20-13-3) at LIGHTNING (22-11-4)
TV: SNO, SUN
TAMPA – When a top player like Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos goes three games without scoring a point, it could seem like it's been much longer.
The Lightning (22-11-4), however, have gotten back on track as a team with wins against the Pittsburgh Penguins and Carolina Hurricanes on their three-game homestand. And if Stamkos doesn't score against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Amalie Arena on Monday he's fine with that as long as the Lightning get another win.
"I try to focus on the little things so we can win and that means I may take a hit with my offensive production," Stamkos said. "It's nice to get the awards and the Rocket Richard [Award] and stuff like that, but you want to win in the end."
Though Stamkos (19 goals, 17 assists) has three points in his past eight games, the line of Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat has picked up the slack. They are responsible for five goals and five assists in the past two games. Kucherov is arguably the hottest player on the Lightning with six goals and five assists in the past eight games.
"Right now that line seems to have found some chemistry and it's good to see," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "They are playing well together and it's coming at a time when we really need it. Tyler Johnson has a knack for the net. He has had to play himself on teams his whole career. He has a competitive edge that is higher than most players. He and Palat have been together for four years now so there's a lot of trust there."
Palat is questionable for Monday after taking the morning skate off for a maintenance day.
Toronto (20-13-3) is on the second half of back-to-back games after a 6-4 loss to the Florida Panthers on Sunday. The Maple Leafs are dealing with a few injuries. Forward Richard Panik will not play after taking a hit to the head Sunday and goalie Jonathan Bernier (flu symptoms) is also doubtful according to Maple Leafs assistant coach Steve Spott. Goalie James Reimer will likely get the start, though he didn't participate in the optional skate Monday.
"We have all the confidence in the world in James Reimer," Spott said. "We have to play better in front of him. We have to play better in front of both our goalies."
Toronto won 5-2 against Tampa Bay at Air Canada Centre on Nov. 20 but the Lightning have won three of the past four against the Maple Leafs at Amalie Arena.
"We don't want this to turn into a special-teams war because the Leafs are very good on special teams," Cooper said. "One thing I will say is that they have played a lot of home games and now the road games are starting to catch up so we're going to see what kind of team they have. They have lots of skill and like to play a track-meet game. They can be scary if you don't stick to your structure."
Here are the projected lineups:
Joffrey Lupul – Tyler Bozak – Phil Kessel
James van Riemsdyk – Nazem Kadri – Mike Santorelli
Daniel Winnik – Peter Holland – David Clarkson
David Booth – Trevor Smith – Carter Ashton
Dion Phaneuf – Cody Franson
Jake Gardiner – Roman Polak
Morgan Rielly – Stephane Robidas
Scratched: Korbinian Holzer
Injured: Leo Komarov (concussion), Richard Panik (head)
Jonathan Drouin – Steven Stamkos – Cedric Paquette
J.T. Brown – Tyler Johnson – Nikita Kucherov
Alex Killorn - Valtteri Filppula – Ryan Callahan
Brenden Morrow – Brian Boyle – Brett Connolly
Anton Stralman – Victor Hedman
Matthew Carle – Radko Gudas
Mark Barberio – Andrej Sustr
Injured: Ondrej Palat (lower body), Jason Garrison (undisclosed)
Status report: Garrison will sit again after experiencing a small setback with his injury. ... Drouin participated in the morning skate and is probable to return after dealing with flu symptoms. … Ashton returned to the lineup Sunday after missing 20 games with a suspension and will skate with Booth and Smith, who is replacing Panik on the fourth line.
Who's hot: Kucherov has two goals and two assists in his past two games. ...Van Riemsdyk scored a goal and had an assist Sunday against the Panthers.