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
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
“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.