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Playoff Watch: Toronto nearing must-win territory

Posted on: March 14, 2011 4:29 pm
Edited on: March 14, 2011 4:54 pm
 



Tampa Bay Lightning (38-22-9) at Toronto Maple Leafs (30-29-10)


Air Canada Centre, 7 pm ET 

SERIES: Tampa 3-0-0; Toronto 0-2-1

IMPLICATIONS: Tampa can pull within a point of fourth-place Pittsburgh in the conference standings and to within three points of Southeast Division-leading Washington. Toronto can climb back within fourth points of eighth place in the Eastern Conference standings. 

BREAKDOWN: The Maple Leafs aren’t just looking to just avoid a season sweep by the Lightning. A victory is nearly a must to keep pace in the hyper-competitive East. There is currently one team (Carolina) between the Leafs and the eighth-place New York Rangers and there will only be a dozen games left on Toronto’s schedule after tonight. With the Atlanta Thrashers and a resurgent New Jersey Devils team on their tail, the Leafs might not to want to squander this home tilt.

Tampa has shut out the Toronto in each of the last two meetings and the Lightning have outscored the Leafs 10-3 overall this season. Martin St. Louis, Simon Gagne and Steven Stamkos each have two goals and an assist versus Toronto this season. The Lightning enter on a two-game skid. 

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Tampa Bay D Eric Brewer vs. Toronto D Dion Phaneuf. Brewer played more than 25 minutes in Saturday’s loss to Florida and he can expect a heavy workload again tonight. This is the final game the Lightning will be without defenseman Pavel Kubina, who was suspended three games for his hit to the head of Chicago’s Dave Bolland. Phaneuf, Toronto’s captain, logs nearly 25 minutes a game himself has thrown 161 shots on net, but only has four goals to show for it -- only two more than a season ago when he was limited to 26 games due to injury. 

KEY STAT: 26.4. The average age of Toronto’s roster, the third-youngest in the NHL. 

Photo: Getty Images
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