TORONTO — Steven Stamkos, with a league-best 43 goals, six more than anyone else entering Monday, might be the only NHL player to reach 50. But the Lightning center said he would sacrifice the mark "any day" to reach the playoffs.
"If it comes, it comes," said Stamkos, who last season tied Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby with a league-best 51. "But I want to be in the playoffs. It's something I haven't experienced yet.
"Last year was different. Everyone was trying to get me that goal because winning wasn't the top priority when you're out of the playoffs. You want to win, but when you're out of the playoffs, it's tough. This year, we're right in the thick of things."
Stamkos has just three goals in 16 games but has two goals, eight points in his past five.
"My game is getting better, and I'm getting the confidence back," he said. "You want to feel that way coming into this part of the season."
But that has nothing to do with Stamkos reaching 50 goals, coach Guy Boucher said:
"Stammer is the first one who doesn't really care about the number. He cares about making his team win. Some people say that, but in this case, it's true; so, for us, the numbers don't really matter."
BOTTOM LINE: C Dominic Moore said he agrees with Canucks star Henrik Sedin, who told the Vancouver Sun that players must lead the way to make the game safer.
"The players need to be more proactive about it, for sure," said Moore, Tampa Bay's rep to the players association, "maybe take the reins as well, deciding what they want and getting together with the league and working with them to find the right solution. I'm optimistic."
INJURIES: D Randy Jones (high ankle sprain) likely will not play again in the regular season, said Boucher, who made it sound as if getting him back for the playoffs would be a bonus. … W Ryan Malone, out 15 games with a torn stomach muscle, skated with the team and wore a red jersey. He said he is about 75 percent and still has discomfort but added, "I'm not worried about making it back by a certain time." Malone is expected back by April.
GOOD BOYS: Monday's game was the first this season in which Tampa Bay did not get a power play. Toronto was called for two penalties, but both coincidental with Lightning penalties. Boucher sarcastically called the Leafs "the cleanest team in the league."
CHEW ON THIS: Stamkos said two tooth caps installed Saturday after he took a stick in the mouth against the Panthers did not prevent enjoyment of a home-cooked meal Monday.
"A little sore," said Stamkos, raised in Unionville, Ontario, near Toronto. "I just put the food in the back of my mouth and chewed."
ODDS AND ENDS: The Lightning swept a season series (4-0-0) from the Maple Leafs for the first time in team history. … W Marty St. Louis, like Stamkos, has two goals, six assists in five-game points streaks. … D Pavel Kubina sat out the last game of a three-game suspension for Wednesday's elbow to the head of Chicago's David Bolland. … RW Steve Downie (ankle/knee) and D Matt Smaby also were scratched.