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Stamkos staying focused, Lightning visit Maple Leafs

NHL.com @NHL

There is expected to be a buzz in and around Air Canada Centre on Tuesday, when Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning will play the Toronto Maple Leafs (7:30 p.m. ET; TVA Sports, SUN, SNO).

Social media, specifically the Twitterverse, figures to be fairly active as well.

The visit by Stamkos comes less than a week after the Lightning captain was forced to address his "like" of a TSN tweet for a video discussing the possibility he could sign with the Maple Leafs as an unrestricted free agent after this season.

The Lightning aren't holding a morning skate Tuesday, but Stamkos spoke prior to their game at the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday.

"I'm focused on tonight, I'm focusing on getting the win here," Stamkos told The Tampa Tribune. "We go in there on a back-to-back, so the focus tonight is on Columbus, and we'll deal with that when the time comes."

The Lightning defeated the Blue Jackets 2-1 with Stamkos held scoreless (one shot on goal). He has gone nine games without a goal since scoring twice against the Anaheim Ducks on Nov. 21, and has 11 goals and 22 points in 31 games; he's on pace for 58 points this season.

Stamkos said everything is business as usual heading into the game in Toronto.

"That's what so great about this group, we all support each other and have each other's backs," he said. "We don't let that stuff creep into the room. As tough as it's been on that standpoint, I don't think I've allowed myself to bring that stuff into the room, and I don't think anybody else has been really bothered by it."

Stamkos is playing the final season of a five-year, $37.5 million contract he signed after spending 18 days as a restricted free agent in July 2011. Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman has said signing Stamkos is his top priority. The sides have agreed to keep any details about negotiations private.

Stamkos is from Markham, Ontario, approximately 18 miles from Toronto. Speculation he might end up playing for the Maple Leafs was high even before his "like" of the TSN post last Thursday, after which Stamkos tried to downplay the matter at the morning skate prior to the Lightning playing the Ottawa Senators.

"People are going to talk about stuff, I'm not too worried about that," he told the Tampa Bay Times. "I guess when you are in the spotlight, and lots of people have done things accidentally. It probably doesn't look great. But I'm telling you guys that it was an accident and hopefully this is the last time I have to answer questions about Twitter."

The Lightning are 15-13-3 this season, fifth in the Atlantic Division entering play Tuesday.

Stamkos was second in the NHL last season with 43 goals in 82 games, and had seven goals and 11 assists in 26 games during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He did not score a goal in six games during the Stanley Cup Final loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.

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