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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Wednesday, March 19th (All times Eastern)

Tampa Bay Lightning (37-24-7) at Toronto Maple Leafs (36-26-8), 7 p.m.

(SportsNetwork.com) - A crucial battle in the Eastern Conference playoff race is on tap Wednesday at Air Canada Centre, as the Toronto Maple Leafs host the Tampa Bay Lighting in an Atlantic Division showdown.

Tampa Bay currently holds the last of the Atlantic's three automatic bids to the playoffs, but the Maple Leafs are just one point behind. Toronto is also in postseason position at the moment, occupying the first of the East's two wild card berths.

After winning the final three tests of a six-game homestand, the Lightning hope to carry some momentum on the road for tonight's important clash. So far in 2013-14, however, Tampa Bay has come up empty against the Maple Leafs.

Toronto is 2-0 against the Lightning this season and has won three of four and seven of the past nine meetings in this series. Tampa Bay also has lost four in a row at Air Canada Centre.

The Bolts dropped a 3-2 regulation decision in Toronto on Jan. 28 and were handed a 4-1 setback at home on Feb. 6. The clubs are set to meet once more in the regular season when the Leafs visit Tampa Bay Times Forum on April 8.

The Lightning began their recent homestand with three straight losses before beating Florida, New Jersey and Vancouver to post a solid 3-1-2 mark during the stay in Central Florida.

The brief surge has seen Tampa Bay log at least a point in five straight games and the Bolts would like to make it six-game point streak with another win on Wednesday.

"We've got points in five straight games at a time when we really need them," Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper remarked. "Hopefully this is good momentum for us going on the road."

Tampa Bay is kicking off a three-game road trip on Wednesday and also will visit Ottawa and Pittsburgh during the swing. The Lighting are 17-16-2 as the visiting team this season.

The Lightning were last in action on Monday when they notched a 4-3 regulation win over the Canucks.

Ondrej Palat continued his five-game point streak with a goal and an assist to help Tampa down Vancouver. Palat, a 22-year-old Czech winger, has four goals and five assists during the run and has been a pleasant surprise for the Bolts this season, posting 18 goals and 46 points through 68 games.

Steven Stamkos also registered a goal and an assist in the Lightning's third straight victory. Valtteri Filppula and Tom Pyatt also scored while goaltender Ben Bishop made 25 stops in the win.

Bishop expects to start tonight for Tampa, but the former Ottawa Senator is just 2-4-0 with a 3.05 goals against average and .884 save percentage in seven career games against Toronto.

Toronto has struggled of late, losing two straight and three of its last four games. The Leafs hope to get back on track Wednesday when they play the first test of a two-game homestand. The residency also includes Saturday's important divisional tilt against the rival Canadiens.

The Maple Leafs are 22-11-1 as the home team this season compared to a 14-15-7 mark on the road.

Toronto wrapped a five-game road trip on Tuesday with a 3-2 regulation loss in Detroit. Gustav Nyquist scored a pair of goals to lead the Red Wings to the close victory at Joe Louis Arena.

Jake Gardiner and James van Riemsdyk had one goal apiece for the Maple Leafs, while James Reimer allowed all three goals on 31 shots.

"It was average. There was some good and bad throughout the five games," Maple Leafs forward Nazem Kadri said of the team's five-game road trip.

Jonathan Bernier sat out his second straight game with a strained groin and the club's No. 1 goaltender is considered day-to-day. Reimer could get the start on back-to-back nights and is 2-3-0 with a 2.94 GAA in five career games against Tampa Bay.

Drew MacIntyre, who has been serving as the backup with Bernier sidelined, has not seen action in an NHL game since making two appearances with Buffalo during the 2011-12 season.

03/19 10:37:58 ET

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Scoreboard
Local
Final
UNC 66
BUT 74
Final
ECU 73
HAW 75
Final
DUKE 93
FUR 54
2nd
CHA 35
POR 35
 
1st
NCSU 40
RICH 39
 
1st
FLA 1
CAR 0
 
2nd
PHI 19
BRK 36
 
2nd
ORL 34
GSW 34
 
2nd
CHA 35
POR 35
 
2nd
CLE 33
WAS 20
 
1st
DET 2
LAC 0
 
7:30pm Tonight
DAL
NYK
7:30pm Tonight
ATL
TOR
8:00pm Tonight
MIN
MIL
8:00pm Tonight
HOU
SAC
8:00pm Tonight
OKC
UTA
8:30pm Tonight
SAN
IND
9:00pm Tonight
PHO
DEN
10:30pm Tonight
LAL
MEM
Final
UNC 66
BUT 74
Final
FRES 64
MAR 68
Final
CHAT 61
RMU 46
Final
EMICH 68
ROCH 35
 
Final
MRGST 51
LIB 50
 
Final
HAMP 60
AMER 64
 
Final
BEL 78
DEN 57
Final
UMASS 79
NE 54
Final
JMU 79
SHU 72
 
Final
KNST 84
SAMF 71
 
Final
ECU 73
HAW 75
Final
CHAM 60
MIZZ 74
Final
CCAR 61
LAMON 48
Final
OKLA 75
UCLA 65
Final
ELON 65
UNF 72
 
Final
UWMIL 66
ORU 69
Final
WCU 66
CHIST 61
Final
DUKE 93
FUR 54
Final
BYU 85
PURD 87
 
2nd
EVAN 71
USF 62
 
1st
COL 26
GTDNS 29
 
1st
VERM 31
BRY 14
 
1st
OSU 33
CAMP 17
 
1st
LOU 22
CLST 15
 
1st
UCF 30
DAVID 36
 
1st
IONA 42
DELST 24
 
1st
OU 32
UGST 38
 
1st
TOWS 42
GOUCHER 22
 
1st
ND 41
GRAM 30
 
Half
YALE 51
LAF 28
 
1st
GWU 26
LONG 19
 
1st
VT 21
UMO 11
 
1st
WAKE 38
MNTER 14
 
1st
NAVY 16
PSUHARRIS 13
 
1st
NCSU 40
RICH 39
 
1st
MINN 29
STJ 26
 
1st
JVU 38
TRINBAPT 30
 
1st
YOUNG 27
UMKC 21
 
1st
UAB 11
WISC 28
 
1st
CORN 9
CAN 11
 
1st
WVU 9
VMI 6
 
8:00pm Tonight
DEP
LEH
 
8:00pm Tonight
UNT
MVSU
 
8:00pm Tonight
MARS
MORE
8:00pm Tonight
TCU
RAD
 
8:00pm Tonight
SELA
TENT
 
8:00pm Tonight
SMU
TXSOU
 
8:00pm Tonight
UTAH
TXPA
8:00pm Tonight
LMU
UCR
8:00pm Tonight
SCAR
UNCA
 
8:00pm Tonight
SD
WAYNEST
 
8:10pm Tonight
PITT
KYST
8:30pm Tonight
UWGB
FLGC
8:30pm Tonight
IOWA
NILL
9:00pm Tonight
ORST
AUB
9:00pm Tonight
MONT
CARROLLMT
 
9:00pm Tonight
SUTAH
EKENT
9:00pm Tonight
NMST
FAM
 
9:00pm Tonight
WYO
STET
 
9:05pm Tonight
EWASH
NKENTUCKY
 
9:05pm Tonight
IDST
WLVRN
 
9:30pm Tonight
GEOR
UF
9:30pm Tonight
GONZ
UGA
9:30pm Tonight
NIOWA
NW
10:00pm Tonight
SDST
ARZ
10:00pm Tonight
CAL
CPSL
10:00pm Tonight
UCD
UTST
10:30pm Tonight
NDAK
ALAST
11:00pm Tonight
CSNO
PORST
11:30pm Tonight
AKAN
PAC
11:30pm Tonight
OKST
TULSA
1st
NYI 2
WAS 1
 
1st Intermission
BUF 0
WIN 1
 
1st
FLA 1
CAR 0
 
1st
TAM 0
NYR 0
 
1st
DET 0
PHI 0
 
1st
PIT 0
TOR 0
 
8:00pm Tonight
MIN
LOS
9:00pm Tonight
COL
CHI
10:30pm Tonight
SJS
CAL