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Preview: Lightning at Maple Leafs

Toronto can clinch playoff berth; Tampa Bay must win to remain in contention

by Dave McCarthy / Correspondent

LIGHTNING (39-30-10) at MAPLE LEAFS (39-25-15)

7:30 p.m. ET; TVA Sports, TSN4, FS-F, NHL.TV


Lightning team scope

The Tampa Bay Lightning are five points behind the Toronto Maple Leafs for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference and must win to remain in contention. "We have a lot left," defenseman Victor Hedman said. "We obviously need some help down the stretch but we can only focus on what we control and that's the game tonight. It's kind of like a playoff run; you're going to have some big wins and some tough losses. You have to control your emotions and I think we've done a pretty good job of that." Goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy will start for the Lightning. Forward Steven Stamkos participated in the morning skate but did not take part in line rushes and will not play. He has been out of the lineup since injuring his right knee on Nov. 15 and may not return this season. "Yeah, it's probably not looking that good," Stamkos said. "It's not even a sense of rushing it. It's when it feels right. If it doesn't feel right, you can't expect to be able to go out there and do the things you can when you're healthy."


Maple Leafs team scope

The Maple Leafs can clinch a playoff berth if they defeat the Lightning in any fashion or if they lose to the Lightning in a shootout, and the New York Islanders lose to the Carolina Hurricanes in any fashion or defeat the Hurricanes in a shootout. "Of course, we want to get it done and win tonight," goaltender Frederik Andersen said. "It would set us up good; we're in a good spot. We want to keep playing the right way and the result will take care of itself. We have to be focused on coming to the rink and being ready to play our game that we have been in the last stretch here." Andersen will start after backing up Curtis McElhinney in a 4-1 loss to the Washington Capitals on Tuesday. He is 6-0-1 in his past eight starts. Center Auston Matthews has 39 goals and is looking to become the first rookie in Maple Leafs history, and fifth in NHL history, to score 40. "It would be great," Matthews said. "I don't think it's really weighing too much on my mind right now. You still have a job to do every night and still have to put the team first. That stuff just takes care of itself."


Lightning projected lineup

Ondrej Palat -- Brayden Point -- Nikita Kucherov

Adam Erne -- Vladislav Namestnikov -- Michael Bournival

Alex Killorn -- Cory Conacher -- Yanni Gourde

Greg McKegg -- Jonathan Drouin -- Joel Vermin

Victor Hedman -- Jake Dotchin

Anton Stralman -- Luke Witkowski

Braydon Coburn -- Andrej Sustr

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Peter Budaj

Scratched: Gabriel Dumont

Injured: Steven Stamkos (knee), Tyler Johnson (lower body), Jason Garrison (lower body), Cedric Paquette (lower body), J.T. Brown (undisclosed), Ryan Callahan (hip)


Maple Leafs projected lineup

James van Riemsdyk -- Tyler Bozak -- Mitchell Marner

Leo Komarov -- Nazem Kadri -- Connor Brown

Zach Hyman -- Auston Matthews -- William Nylander

Matt Martin -- Brian Boyle -- Kasperi Kapanen

Morgan Rielly -- Connor Carrick

Jake Gardiner -- Nikita Zaitsev

Matt Hunwick -- Roman Polak

Frederik Andersen

Curtis McElhinney

Scratched: Martin Marincin, Alexey Marchenko, Ben Smith, Josh Leivo

Injured: Eric Fehr (hand/arm), Nikita Soshnikov (undisclosed)


Status report

Johnson is a game-time decision. He did not take part in line rushes at the morning skate. "Give Johnson a lot of credit, he's been trying to game it out," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "We need him feeling better than he was in the Boston game or he won't be able to go."... Boyle is expected to play. He left after the first period Tuesday with an upper-body injury. Soshnikov is still not skating and remains day to day. 


Who's hot

Drouin has 10 points (four goals, six assists) in his past nine games. Kucherov has 12 points (seven goals, five assists) in his past eight games. Palat has 13 points (three goals, 10 assists) in his past nine games. ... Marner has four points (two goals, two assists) during a four-game point streak. Van Riemsdyk has four points (three goals, one assist) during a four-game point streak. Matthews has 12 points (eight goals, four assists) in his past 10 games.

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