Maple Leafs vs. Lightning Preview
Lately, though, both teams have also been struggling offensively.
When they meet Tuesday night, the Maple Leafs will try to snap a five-game skid, while Lightning will attempt to avoid a fourth consecutive loss in their return home from a difficult Western road trip.
Oddsmakers from online sports book BroburySports.com have made the Lightning –146 money line favorites for Tuesday's game against the Maple Leafs. Current NHL Public Betting Information shows that 76% of more than 405 bets for this game have been placed on the Lightning -146.
Tampa Bay (7-4-2) hasn't reached the postseason since 2007 but made some early progress under new general manager Steve Yzerman and first-year coach Guy Boucher.
The Lightning opened the season 3-0 and were 6-2-1 before heading West. The trip got off to a good start with a 3-0 victory over Phoenix, but they finished 0-2-1 while getting outscored 9-4.
After a pair of one-goal defeats, Tampa Bay was handled 5-2 by San Jose on Saturday night.
"It was the end of a nine-day road trip, and it took a lot out of us," Boucher said. "We got a lot of shots. Opportunities were there."
Boucher's club should get some help with center Dominic Moore expected to return from a groin injury. Steve Downie, though, is questionable with an ailing back that he played with Saturday, and Simon Gagne remains out with a neck injury.
The Lightning probably could use the help as they're in the middle of a 21-game stretch that features just six at home.
"When you look at the schedule, it's a little scary," Boucher said. "Right now, it's just trying to get out of this jungle alive."
In their return to the St. Pete Times Forum, the Lightning will take on a Maple Leafs club still finding their identity. Toronto (5-5-3), which hasn't reached the playoffs since 2004, has been outscored 23-15 during a 1-5-3 stretch after tallying 16 goals during a 4-0 start.
After scoring four times during a shootout loss to Washington on Wednesday, the Maple Leafs couldn't build on an early 2-0 lead against Buffalo on Saturday. That allowed the Sabres to tie it with 13.1 seconds left and hand Toronto another shootout defeat.
The Maple Leafs' top line of Phil Kessel, Tyler Bozak and Kris Versteeg has especially struggled, accounting for two goals during the current 0-3-2 skid.
"We got some people that need to dig in and try to create some scoring chances, and not just sit back and wait for something easy," coach Ron Wilson said. "At some point, it will start to click in and we'll see the results we expect."
While his team has struggled, Nikolai Kulemin has a goal in three consecutive games. Tampa Bay's league-leading scorer Steven Stamkos, meanwhile, has continued his red-hot start.
Stamkos had three goals and an assist during the road trip, giving him 11 goals and 11 assists. He has two goals and five assists in his last three games against Toronto, but Tampa Bay lost two of those.
The Maple Leafs are 3-0-2 in their last five against the Lightning, but Tampa Bay is 3-1-1 at home with 20 goals scored there this season. Toronto is 0-2-1 in its last three road contests while being outscored 11-6.The last five games between the teams have each been decided by one goal or via shootout.
Bet 2010 NHL Odds