Maple Leafs in pursuit of home-ice advantage as they face Lightning

Joffrey Lupul of the Maple Leafs. (ERNEST DOROSZUK/QMI Agency)

Joffrey Lupul of the Maple Leafs. (ERNEST DOROSZUK/QMI Agency)

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:45 PM ET

TAMPA - That’s enough rest.

Time for the Maple Leafs to play some hockey.

They will get that on Wednesday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning, a club that is out of playoff contention.

“Hopefully our group is energized,” Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said after the morning skate.

“They felt that way with the morning skate, but sometimes the morning skate is not really a true indicator of what happens. But we are looking for our group to have an energized effort tonight and we want to create a good start for our team and focus on the first shift.”

The Leafs have not played since Saturday night, when they clinched a playoff spot with a win in Ottawa against the Senators.

They’ve spent the past several days golfing or fishing — Tyler Bozak landed a small shark on Tuesday after practice — and they say they’re ready to try to nail down home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

The Leafs have three games remaining, and if they win two, they can gain home ice. That’s if the Montreal Canadiens don’t win again in their two games. If the Leafs win all three of their games, including Saturday in regulation against Montreal, they will be at the Air Canada Centre for Game 1 of the playoffs.

“Home ice is a big advantage in the playoffs,” forward Joffrey Lupul said. “We have an opportunity to do it, but really all we can control is tonight right now, if we win this one, then focus on the next one.

“It’s a good motivator that we can get home ice. It would be great for our fans and it would be nice for us. Gives you an advantage in the series for sure. You want to go into the playoffs playing good hockey. You don’t want to lose three games and go into the playoffs and think you are going to turn it up immediately.”

James Reimer will start in goal for the Leafs. Former Ottawa Senator Ben Bishop will start for the Lightning.

“It will be the fourth time I have played them this year, so I know them a little bit, and I’m looking forward to it,” Bishop said. “They are very offensive, very quick, they move the puck fast, especially on the power play, they zip it around pretty good. They have some guys who can shoot the puck.”

A Leafs fourth line of Joe Colborne between Clarke MacArthur and Matt Frattin appeared to be part of the roster for the game, which would mean that another line of Ryan Hamilton between Frazer McLaren and Colton Orr would be scratched.

But Carlyle, who called over the Colborne line for a chat toward the end of the morning skate, would not confirm as much. There’s also the extra defence pair of Jake Gardiner and Mike Kostka.

“When you have five extra bodies ... we think we are going to have to use everybody as we go in the last three games,” Carlyle said. “It’s not a question of resting some people. When you get into these situations, it is about utilizing your full roster.”

The Lightning is playing out the string and have three games left as well.

Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos have a shot at winning the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL’s leading scorer. Twice Stamkos has won the Maurice ‘Rocket’ Richard Trophy as the NHL’s leading goal-scorer.

“You would take playoffs over anything, especially being in this situation before, it puts a damper on things when you are winning individual awards but your team is not in the playoffs for the award that you want the most, and that’s the Stanley Cup,” Stamkos said. “You feel like you can do more if your team is not winning. It is a lot more fun to be contributing to team success. Both go hand in hand. Definitely a disappointing year.”

Stamkos, a native of Markham, was asked about the Leafs’ return to the playoffs after nine years.

“It’s good for the league, it’s good for the organization,” Stamkos said. “I know they have been starving for a playoff berth for a long time. Any team that makes the playoffs in this league, especially nowadays, deserves it and has done a lot of good things throughout the year to get themselves in that position.”


Videos

Photos