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Leafs visit Lightning, Oilers host Blackhawks on TSN

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The Sports Network
4/24/2013 11:37:34 AM
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The Toronto Maple Leafs will hit the ice for the first time since clinching their first playoff appearance in nine years as they continue a three-game road trip on Wednesday night with a contest against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Catch the game on TSN as part of a doubleheader starting at 7pm et/4pm pt, followed by the Edmonton Oilers hosting the Chicago Blackhawks at 9:30pm et/6:30pm pt. Also available on TSN Mobile TV

The Maple Leafs ended their longest drought of missing the playoffs in team history on Saturday when a 4-1 win over the Ottawa Senators clinched their first postseason spot since 2004. James Reimer, who will likely get the start tonight, was outstanding with 49 saves as Toronto moved to 5-2-1 in its past eight.

"When we started in January, our sights were set on trying to qualify for the playoffs," said Leafs coach Randy Carlyle. "It's been a drought for our hockey club. We just refer back to respect. We're trying to earn respect back for our group. That to me is the most important thing. For us to qualify now, it's a feather in the player's caps for all the work they put in."

James van Riemsdyk scored twice, while Joffrey Lupul and Nazem Kadri both added goals. Phil Kessel and Cody Franson notched two assists each. Kessel has six goals and eight assists over his past eight games.

"It's unbelievable," said Reimer. "That's the hockey where you want to play always as a kid growing up. It's playoff hockey. Especially for our city, it's been a little while so I know they're anxious for (the playoffs). They're ready for them. It's good to finally clinch."

With 55 points, the Maple Leafs sit fifth overall in the Eastern Conference. They are four points back of fourth place with three games to play but also hold just a one-point edge over the New York Islanders, who sit in sixth place.

Toronto will also visit the Florida Panthers on Thursday before ending its season at home versus the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday.

The Lightning sit 14th out of 15 teams in the East and will miss the playoffs for the fifth time in the past six seasons. They aren't showing signs of finishing strong either as they have lost six straight (0-4-2).

Tampa Bay's latest loss came on Sunday, a 3-2 setback to the Carolina Hurricanes. The Lightning gave up all three goals in the first period, the first coming 16 seconds into the game and the third with 1:14 to play in the frame.

"I don't know what it is with us in the first period," Tampa Bay defenseman Victor Hedman said. "We always battle back, which is the good part, but we would rather be up a few goals instead of behind."

In his first game since missing the previous 13 with a high ankle sprain, Anders Lindback made 25 saves on 28 shots faced.

Steven Stamkos scored his 28th goal of the season, three back of Alex Ovechkin of Washington for the league lead, while Martin St. Louis had a goal and an assist. He leads the NHL with 42 assists and his 55 points trail only injured Pittsburgh Penguin Sidney Crosby for the most in the league.

The Lightning, who haven't lost seven in a row since an 0-6-1 skid from Jan. 3-15, 2012, will visit the Boston Bruins on Thursday and then end their season at home versus the Panthers on Saturday.

The Maple Leafs have won five of their past six versus the Lightning and won for the first time in their past three trips to Tampa on Feb. 19.

Chicago Blackhawks at Edmonton Oilers

The Chicago Blackhawks try to secure their first Presidents' Trophy in 22 years as they visit the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday night.

The Blackhawks, who opened the season with an NHL record 24-game point streak (21-0-3), lead the league with 73 points, three ahead of the Eastern Conference-leading Pittsburgh Penguins with three games to play. The Pens have two games remaining following Tuesday night's regulation loss to the Buffalo Sabres, so Chicago can clinch the top record in the NHL with a victory tonight.

Chicago had an 11-game point streak halted on Monday, falling 3-1 to Vancouver as the Canucks clinched the Northwest Division title. The Blackhawks had been 9-0-2 in their previous 11 and fell to 17-3-2 on the road.

Daniel Carcillo scored the lone goal and Corey Crawford posted 29 stops for the Blackhawks, who were coming off a shootout loss to the Phoenix Coyotes as their quest to win the Presidents' Trophy for the first time since 1990-91 has hit a bump.

"This was our worst game of the year," said Chicago head coach Joel Quenneville. "If it wasn't for Crawford the final score would have been a lot worse than it was."

Chicago played without forward Patrick Sharp and defenseman Michal Rozsival due to upper body injuries and the two are questionable for tonight.

The Blackhawks will return home to host the Calgary Flames on Friday before ending the regular season as the top seed in the West with Saturday's road game at St. Louis.

Edmonton had its playoff drought stretched to seven straight seasons with this campaign as the club hasn't played in the postseason since a Game 7 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2006 Stanley Cup Finals.

The Oilers have lost eight of their past nine, including two straight home losses to the Pacific Division-winning Anaheim Ducks. Edmonton followed up Sunday's 3-1 loss to Anaheim with a 3-0 setback the following night.

Nikolai Khabibulin stopped 25-of-28 shots for the Oilers, who have dropped 11 straight at home against Anaheim.

Edmonton, which will visit Minnesota on Friday and then host Vancouver the following day, have had some recent success against Chicago. The Oilers have outscored the Blackhawks 29-17 in going 4-0-1 in the previous five and have won their last two at home in this series by scores of 9-2 and 8-4, respectively.

The Blackhawks hosted the Oilers on March 10 in their first game since their season-opening point streak was halted and dropped a second game in a row, 6-5.

Sam Gagner scored twice for Edmonton, while Taylor Hall and Ryan Whitney posted a goal and an assist each.

Patrick Kane had a three-point game for the Blackhawks, scoring twice and assisting on another.

James van Riemsdyk (Photo: Andy Marlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

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(Photo: Andy Marlin/NHLI via Getty Images)
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