The Toronto Maple Leafs could finally have their ailing playoff chances euthanized tonight with a loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning coupled with the Columbus Blue Jackets gaining at least a point against the Phoenix Coyotes. The Leafs will still only have a less-than-18-per-cent chance of squeaking in to a wild card if they win these last three games, but at least it will make us all feel a little better about this team if they can do it. Maybe.
The good thing about tonight is the game won’t be in Toronto, where Lightning sniper and Unionville native Steven Stamkos tends to score at will. No. 91 had a hat-trick at the Air Canada Centre on March 19 in a game where Leafs goaltender James Reimer got shelled to the tune of five goals on 30 shots as the Bolts won it 5-3.
With Jonathan Bernier on the shelf for likely the rest of the season, Reimer will get the start again tonight. Lightning starter Ben Bishop, who’s sixth in the NHL in save percentage with a .924 mark, is expected to be in the other net.
Leafs winger Joffrey Lupul had surgery to repair a meniscus injury after Saturday’s game, and will miss the remainder of the regular season. Dave Bolland, still struggling with his ankle injury, looks like he’ll miss tonight’s game as well.
Enter Carter Ashton, who has been on a scoring tear with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies with 30 points in 24 games. Ashton has only three points in 31 games with the big club this season, but has mainly played on the fourth line. He’s expected to get significant minutes tonight, likely alongside Nazem Kadri and David Clarkson.
For everything else you need to know about tonight’s game, check out Jeff L.’s preview. Follow along with the Twitter machine for the latest:
Will the Leafs keep their slim playoff hopes alive and beat their division rival tonight? Sound off in the comments! GO LEAFS GO!!!