TAMPA -- But for one rather ugly 10-minute stretch, the Maple Leafs could finish off one of their most successful road trips of the season tonight at the St. Pete Times Forum.
With a win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Leafs would return home with five of a possible six points after a victory in Montreal this past Saturday and overtime loss in Florida two nights ago.
That OT loss still stings, given that the Leafs led 4-1 with nine minutes remaining but the players recognized they have a chance to erase that ugly memory tonight against the struggling Bolts.
"We have a chance to leave here with a pretty successful trip," Leafs forward Brad May said after this morning's gameday skate. "It should have been better, yes and we all feel that loss sucked, the way it happened.
"But we've had a good time as a team on this trip and hopefully we can finish it off with a win tonight."
The Lightning have been struggling of late, especially on offence. The team has scored just nine goals in its past six games and has slipped to a 1-4-1 record. One of the worse was a 3-1 home loss to lowly Atlanta on Tuesday that had coach Rick Tocchet fuming.
"Certain players weren't interested in the game," said Tocchet, whose morning skate looked more like a full-out practice today complete with the occasional verbal barrage from the coach.
"The Leafs are playing pretty good to be honest with you. They are playing hard. It certainly doesn't look like they are playing for next year."
Leafs coach Ron Wilson said that other than "a couple of stinkers" the team is in reasonable form over its recent handful of games.
"We found our forecheck and we're getting a lot of offensive opportunities, putting the puck on the net," Wilson said. "Generally, overall I'm pleased."
Meanwhile, there werea couple of off-ice developments with the team today. Jeremy Williams has cleared waivers and will return to the Marlies where he may not find a pair of his former teammates.
The team placed forwards Boyd Devereaux and Bates Battaglia on wavers today. Any team in the league could pick them up by noon today.
As for tonight's game, Wilson will juggle the lines once again. Nik Hagman will be reunited with Nik Kulemin and Mikhail Grabovski after scoring a pair of goals and assists in two games alongside Dominic Moore and Jason Blake. Hagman will be replaced on that unit by Lee Stempniak.