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Maple Leafs game preview: Can Lightning strike twice?

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The Leafs host the Lightning tonight and my God it took me forever to spell Lightning properly.

Claus Andersen/Getty Images

Here is your game preview. We're tag teaming it today so I'll take the Maple Leafs and Achariya will take it for the Lightning.

One will be more positive than the other....

Tampa Bay Lightning at Toronto Maple Leafs
7:30PM TSN4, TVA - TSN1050AM
SBN:
Raw Charge

Here's the morning Leafs chatter out there today:

Not much going on on an optional practice day...

Here are the lines NHL.com projects

James van Riemsdyk – Tyler BozakPhil Kessel
Leo KomarovNazem KadriJoffrey Lupul
Zach SillSam CarrickRichard Panik
David BoothTrevor SmithJoakim Lindstrom

Eric BrewerDion Phaneuf
Jake GardinerMorgan Rielly
Tim ErixonTJ Brennan

James Reimer
Jonathan Bernier

Scratched: Casey Bailey, Brandon Kozun
Injured: Peter Holland (lower body), Nathan Horton (back), Stephane Robidas (shoulder), Roman Polak (sports hernia)

My Thoughts: The Leafs won on Saturday for #42 Garrett Gamble Jr, but now it's time to Lose! Lose! Lose! Lose! Yeah I'm a bad fan but whatever, season is lost, and I want a good draft pick! Lose Leafs! Go Oielrs! Go Lightning! Stamkos! Woooo!

And now, to help us transition from Maple Leafs to Lightning is PPPer emjaymj!

Just a normal Leaf fan excited as usual for the game!

emjay stamoks front

emjaystamkos back

It's a bigger dream than Jefflers Luongo jersey....

For the real Bolts' side of the game preview, please go see the fine folk at Raw Charge!

Pardon me while I close this door. Please ignore the sounds of a drunken party on the other side of it, if you don’t mind. And, uh, ignore the medical personnel. The Tampa Bay Lightning, you see, are still coming down off an incredible high. Last night the Bolts did the following:

  • Beat the Habs soundly
  • Clinched a playoff berth with 101 points
  • Earned the first regular-season sweep of the Habs since the Sabres did it in 1984
  • Got their first power play goal in 15 games (we have issues)
  • ...Which was also the first goal for Jonathan Drouin since Dec. 15 (such a pretty goal too)
  • Set franchise record for most regular-season wins
  • Set record for first goaltender in franchise history to record two assists in a game (Bishop has four points this season; Cory Conacher has three)

Some post-game drinking might have happened. For me, not the team, of course. So, uh, about the medical personnel. Bolts are a little depleted right now. It’s not from partying, I promise -- it’s from a one-two punch of the Red Wings and the Canadiens, who have a tendency to kick the crap out of the Bolts for Reasons. Coming into Toronto, we’re short the following players:

  • Victor Hedman
  • Andrej Sustr
  • Jason Garrison
  • Braydon Coburn
  • Tyler Johnson

That’s right, we’re missing four D and our second-line center. Bolts just announced that they’ve called up young Defenseman Slater Koekkoek from the Syracuse Crunch to replace Hedman (Raw Charge has a feature about him here). Aside from having an awesome name (pronounced Cuckoo), he was the Bolts’ 2012 first-round pick, 10th overall. He’s leading the Crunch in points and assists, and I know Crunch fans kind of hate the Bolts right now for stealing half their D.

It looks like our defensive pairs (as reported on NHL.com) might be something like:

  • Nikita Nesterov (AHL) - Anton Stralman
  • Mark Barberio  - Matt Carle
  • Luke Witkowski (AHL) - Slater Koekkoek (AHL)

In short, y’all will be playing half the Syracuse Crunch D-corps. If the Bolts’ lines remain the same as they were vs. the Habs, they might be:

  • Killorn-Filppula-Stamkos
  • Palat-Namestnikov-Kucherov
  • Drouin-Paquette-Callahan
  • Morrow-Boyle-Brown

Also, considering that Ben Bishop started yesterday, it's likely that you're getting our backup Andrei Vasilevskiy in the net. (I love watching this one video of Vasy saving a Ribeiro shot, where he does the splits like a Russian ballet dancer.)

So, the Bolts are likely hungover, half-AHL, and on the second night of a back-to-back. Are the Bolts going to help the Leafs tank tonight? …………...Um.

On the bright side, apparently losing Tyler Johnson means less than Bolts fans feared. AHL call-up Vladislav Namestnikov (that’s right, the SON OF THE GUY who sneakily recruits Russians for y’all) likes to score lots of goals -- he scored two last night -- and does it well with the second line.

Tonight, look for: shaky defense, a really tired group of guys, Stamkos showing off for the home crowd, and at least a pair from Namestnikov, for his dad.