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Stamkos back home as Lightning face Maple Leafs

by Neil Acharya
TORONTO -- Steven Stamkos, the NHL's leading goal scorer, is back home for the first time this season as the Tampa Bay Lightning visit the Toronto Maple Leafs.

"I talked about it since day one, it's nice to come back and play in front of friends and family. It's always a special time for me and a big time for our team right now with the position we're in," said Stamkos, who was named the League's first star for the past week.

Currently, the Lightning have won three games in a row and Stamkos is eager for the club to continue to its recent play.

"We obviously wanted to have a better start but I think we have cleaned up our game drastically over the past 10 games," Stamkos said. "We may have not gotten the results we wanted to in a couple of them, but the last three for sure we have really tightened up defensively and we need another big game tonight.”

While the Lightning have gone 6-3-1 in the past 10 and are on the rise in the Eastern Conference, the Maple Leafs have struggled, losing three games in a row, and are 3-5-2 in their past 10 games.

If the Leafs are going to right the ship, taking advantage of home ice will be key. Tonight marks the first of a season-high nine home games this month.

"It's up to us to determine home ice advantage and go out and play well," Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson said. "It seems here in Toronto that you don't get very many teams that come in often and have an off night. Everybody gets fired up to play here in Toronto, so your advantage is taken a away a little bit, but we will try to push the pace and make it a home ice advantage."

Ron Wilson who will give Jonas Gustavsson his first start since December 17th versus Vancouver. 

"It's a tough team," Gustavsson said. "(They have) always been tight games against them and I'm sure it will be another one tonight."

Notes: Tampa Bay defenseman Victor Hedman remains out of the lineup with a concussion and did not make the trip to Toronto.

Toronto made a minor deal this afternoon, dealing forward Luca Caputi to Anaheim for forward Nicolas Deschamps.  Forward Phillipe Dupuis was also assigned to the AHL Toronto Marlies after clearing waivers, while defenseman Korbinian Holzer was recalled.
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