Lightning-Maple Leafs Preview

The Associated Press

The Tampa Bay Lightning are still out of the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference, but they've been working their way back in.

The Toronto Maple Leafs need to improve their penalty killing or they could keep heading in the opposite direction.

The Lightning go for a season-high fourth consecutive victory when they try to extend their point streak in Toronto to eight Tuesday night.

A game from advancing to its second Stanley Cup finals last season, Tampa Bay (17-17-3) closed out 2011 in 12th place in the East with 37 points - four back of 10th-place Toronto (18-15-5).

The Lightning, though, are riding a 5-1-1 surge that has followed a 1-7-0 skid.

The hot streak has been due in part to center Steven Stamkos, who helped Tampa Bay close out a 3-0-0 homestand Saturday with his fifth career hat trick. He has netted 10 of his league-leading 26 goals in the last eight contests.

"He is pretty hot,'' right wing Martin St. Louis said of Stamkos, who has 17 points in 13 games versus Toronto. "He's flying.''

So is St. Louis, who has three goals and seven assists during a seven-game point streak.

The Lightning are also hoping for continued production from Steve Downie as they open a three-game trip through Canada. Downie leads the club with seven points during the winning streak.

Tampa Bay last won four in a row during a five-game run March 26-April 3.

The Lightning lost 7-1 at home to the Leafs on Nov. 22, but they have gone 5-0-2 in Toronto since a 6-1 defeat Dec. 10, 2007.

The Leafs, who snapped a four-game skid to Tampa Bay in the November matchup, will try to rebound from a 1-2-1 trip as they open a stretch of nine of 10 at Air Canada Centre. Toronto, though, has gone 5-5-4 on home ice since winning its first three there this season.

Better special teams play could help the Leafs end their season high-tying three-game slide. They have killed off a league-worst 72.4 percent of penalties after surrendering a pair of power-play goals in a 3-2 loss to Winnipeg on Saturday.

"It's obviously something we work on a lot and talk about a lot and we're trying to get better at," James Reimer said after making 32 saves.

If Reimer gets his seventh consecutive start, it will be the first time he faces Tampa Bay since giving up five goals in the Lightning's last visit, a 6-2 loss March 14.

Reimer is 0-2-0 with a 3.92 goals-against average in this series.

Teammate Jonas Gustavsson is 2-0-3 with a 2.54 GAA against the Lightning after stopping 27 shots Nov. 22.

Dwayne Roloson gave up six goals in that contest to snap his four-game winning streak against Toronto, while Mathieu Garon stopped four of five shots as a third-period replacement.

Garon, who has started Tampa Bay's last seven games, is 1-1-0 with a 3.94 GAA in three starts in Toronto.

Leafs leading scorer Phil Kessel ended a four-game point drought against the Lightning with an assist on one of Tyler Bozak's two goals Nov. 22.

Toronto's Joffrey Lupul scored in that game to extend his point streak against Tampa Bay to six. He has two goals and five assists during that stretch.

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