Penguins-Maple Leafs Preview

The Pittsburgh Penguins and Toronto Maple Leafs have cooled off

a bit after getting off to hot starts, but their respective top

scorers have not.

Sidney Crosby looks to help visiting Pittsburgh avoid a third

consecutive defeat as it faces Phil Kessel and the slumping Maple

Leafs on Saturday night.

The Penguins (7-3-0) won seven of eight to start the season, but

they’ve dropped two straight after falling 4-3 to the New York

Islanders on Friday. They haven’t lost three consecutive

regular-season contests since a six-game skid from Dec. 29,

2011-Jan. 11, 2012.

”We had some chances to build on our lead, and we didn’t,”

Crosby said. ”We made some mistakes and they made us pay.”

The captain had his career-best eight-game point streak to start

a season snapped in Monday’s 1-0 loss to Colorado, but he scored

his eighth goal in the second period Friday and also has 10 assists

to lead the league in points.

Crosby has 11 goals and four assists during a nine-game point

streak against the Leafs, scoring a goal in eight straight before

finishing with two assists in the most recent matchup – a 3-1 win

March 14.

He has nine goals and eight assists in 12 career road matchups

against Toronto, which has lost three of four after falling 5-2 in

Columbus on Friday. The Maple Leafs (7-4-0) won six of their first

seven prior to this stretch.

Toronto’s lone victory during the slump came Tuesday, as Kessel

recorded his fourth career hat trick in a 4-2 win over Anaheim.

Kessel scored 40 seconds into the second period Friday before the

Blue Jackets pulled away.

Kessel, who has a team-best 12 points, briefly left the bench

later in the period but returned to start the third. The reason for

his departure wasn’t immediately clear.

Jonathan Bernier made 31 saves, but it’s likely James Reimer

will be in net for the second of a back-to-back. Reimer is 2-0-0

but also has been pulled in two starts while posting a 3.17

goals-against average. He’s 3-0-2 with a 2.51 GAA in five career

starts against Pittsburgh.

The Leafs played Friday without Joffrey Lupul, who is tied with

Kessel for the team lead with six goals, after he suffered a bone

bruise due to being hit with a puck in practice Thursday. It’s

unclear if he’ll be able to play against the Penguins.

David Clarkson, though, made his team debut following a 10-game

suspension for leaving the bench to join a fight during a preseason

game against Buffalo.

”It’s all about winning now,” Clarkson said. ”It doesn’t

matter how anyone feels. We have to find a way to win, and to be

better than that.”

Pittsburgh got defenseman Kris Letang back Friday after he

missed the first nine games with a lower-body injury. He played

more than 25 minutes in front of Jeff Zatkoff, who made 21

saves.

“I felt pretty good,” Letang said. “I mean, a couple mistakes

here and there. But (it’s) something (where) I need to get back

into it and making sure I make good decisions.”

Marc-Andre Fleury, who is 7-1-0 with a 1.74 GAA, will be back in

net Saturday. He’s 5-1-1 despite a 3.31 GAA and .876 save

percentage in his last seven starts against Toronto.

Penguins winger Matt D’Agostini (lower-body injury) is eligible

to come off injured reserve and could make his season debut.