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Preview: Maple Leafs at Lightning

Brian Boyle of Toronto plays former team; Tampa Bay looks for fifth straight win

by Corey Long / Correspondent

MAPLE LEAFS (31-23-14) AT LIGHTNING (34-26-9)

7:30 p.m. ET, SUN, SNO, NHL.TV


Maple Leafs team scope

The Toronto Maple Leafs are 3-3-3 in their past nine games and have fallen one point behind the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Islanders for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference. Center Brian Boyle will face the Lightning for the first time since he was traded by Tampa Bay on Feb. 27. He had 41 goals and 66 points in 212 games with the Lightning. "[You] can't really worry about the emotional side of it, that has to wait for another day," Boyle said. "It's going to be hard. I have some great memories but what are we doing here? We're trying to win games, trying to make the playoffs and this is such a huge game." Coach Mike Babcock said he wants to see a better effort from the Maple Leafs than in a 7-2 loss to the Florida Panthers on Tuesday. "We both find ourselves, at the moment, out of the playoffs," Babcock said. "Anyone who saw the game [Tuesday] knows we let ourselves down. We're looking for a huge response. Their team knows it's a big game too so we're going to have to play well. So let's execute, do what we're supposed to do and compete at a high level. Last game, that never happened." Center Auston Matthews is in a six-game stretch without scoring a point. Center Tyler Bozak will play in his 500th NHL game.


Lightning team scope

The Lightning have won four consecutive games and are 12-2-3 in their past 17. Centers Tyler Johnson and Cedric Paquette will each miss his third straight game and Vladislav Namestnikov will miss his second straight. Brayden Point will continue to center the first line and coach Jon Cooper said the 21-year-old rookie has handled it well. "On the talent side of things, he's probably where we thought he might end up," Cooper said. "But he's done it way faster than we could imagine." Point said he wants to help the Lightning win games. "I'm playing around very good players and I've been a little lucky," Point said. "But we are all playing well and [Thursday] is going to be a really hard fought game with both teams battling for playoff spots." Cooper said the Lightning should focus on the bigger picture. "I know there's like a lot of onus being put on this game but there's still lots of hockey left," Cooper said. "Is this an extremely important game? Yes. Are we looking at this just because it's the Leafs and we're battling each other? I don't think it matters."


Maple Leafs projected lineup

Zach Hyman -- Auston Matthews -- William Nylander

Leo Komarov -- Nazem Kadri -- Connor Brown

James van Riemsdyk -- Tyler Bozak -- Mitchell Marner

Matt Martin -- Brian Boyle -- Nikita Soshnikov

Jake Gardiner -- Nikita Zaitsev

Morgan Rielly -- Alexey Marchenko

Matt Hunwick -- Roman Polak

Frederik Andersen

Curtis McElhinney

Scratched: Josh Leivo, Martin Marincin

Injured: Connor Carrick (upper body)


Lightning projected lineup

Ondrej Palat -- Brayden Point -- Nikita Kucherov

Alex Killorn -- Yanni Gourde -- Jonathan Drouin

Luke Witkowski -- Byron Froese -- Adam Erne

J.T. Brown -- Greg McKegg -- Gabriel Dumont

Victor Hedman -- Jake Dotchin

Jason Garrison -- Anton Stralman

Braydon Coburn -- Andrej Sustr

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Peter Budaj

Scratched: None

Injured: Steven Stamkos (knee surgery), Ryan Callahan (hip), Tyler Johnson (lower body), Cedric Paquette (lower body), Vladislav Namestnikov (lower body)


Status report

Stamkos skated before the morning skate and was also a non-contact participant in the Lightning skate. ...Froese was sent to Syracuse of the American Hockey League on Wednesday but was recalled Thursday and will be in the lineup.


Who's hot

Nylander has two goals and seven assists in his past 10 games. ... Vasilevskiy is 6-0-1 with a .958 save percentage in his past seven starts. ... Hedman has four goals and seven assists in his past 10 games.

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