Maple Leafs-Penguins Preview
With or without their star center, the Eastern Conference-leading Penguins will go for their ninth win in 10 games Monday night at home against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Malkin injured his leg in the third period of Saturday's 4-1 victory at Detroit. The extent of the injury wasn't immediately known, though he kept his left skate in the air as he was helped off the ice and would walk with a noticeable limp after the game.
He went out in style with a goal and two assists while Sidney Crosby scored twice. The Penguins (23-10-1) have won seven straight with Malkin on the ice as he's totaled 14 points. Their only loss in the past nine games came when he was out with a lower-body injury.
Pittsburgh was also without defenseman Kris Letang due to an upper-body injury Saturday, and the team is waiting for answers on both players. Letang joined fellow defensemen Brooks Orpik (concussion), Paul Martin (broken leg) and Rob Scuderi (broken ankle) on the injury report.
"We just got to find ways," Crosby told the team's official website. "It was tough tonight. We stuck with it, but we're not making it easy on ourselves, that's for sure."
Despite the depleted blue line, the Penguins have allowed 11 goals in their last eight games.
Special teams have been a key part of the recent success. Pittsburgh's power play has converted 40.0 percent since a 6-5 shootout win over Toronto on Nov. 27 that started the current 8-1-0 stretch. The Penguins have killed all 17 of their short-handed situations this month.
Crosby and Malkin scored on the power play Saturday while Pittsburgh went 5 for 5 on the kill, including a 5-minute major.
"We started well on the power play and then were able to shut them down on the five-minute power play," Crosby said. "That was an important part of the game."
Crosby has 42 points in 27 career games against Toronto, including two assists in the last meeting.
The Penguins and Maple Leafs (17-14-3) have split the season series with each team winning on home ice. Pittsburgh's 14 home wins - behind Crosby's 23 points - are the most in hockey.
While the Penguins have won seven straight at home, Toronto has lost nine of 10 on the road.
The Maple Leafs snapped an overall three-game losing streak, on which they were outscored by eight goals, in a big way with Saturday's 7-3 home win over Chicago.
"I thought our hockey club responded the way they needed to respond," coach Randy Carlyle said. "They took responsibility for our actions and that's a good sign. The most encouraging thing for us tonight was our work ethic and we stuck to our system and played it."
"We really felt we needed a win," said Lupul, who halted a five-game point drought. "It's a hard stretch for us, a lot of games in a short stretch of time so Saturday night at home with a day of rest, we came into the game feeling like it was pretty close to a must-win for us. Things were kind of starting to snowball the other way."
Phil Kessel notched his team-leading 17th goal and has scored in both games against the Penguins this season. He has seven points over a four-game point streak against them.