Preview and GDT: Maple Leafs vs. Penguins (7 p.m., CBC)
In this shortened season it’s never too early to talk about playoff implications. The Leafs currently sit 5th in the Eastern Conference while the Pens come into this game as the 2nd team in the East. In recent years, getting into the playoffs was virtually a lock for Pittsburgh. As we all know, the Leafs have struggled mightily. Given how things have played out so far, this season provides hope. This season can be different.
However, even with the East being weaker than usual, the post season hopes are still just that – hopes. A victory against
arguably the most offensively gifted team in the league would go a long way to solidify Toronto’s playoff position and give us one more reason to believe.
Last 10 games: Pittsburgh 7-3-0; Toronto 6-4-0
Season series: This is the second of the three meetings between these two teams this season. Toronto holds the series advantage after a 5-2 victory in Pittsburgh on the 23rd of January.
Nazem Kadri still leads the team with 25 points and is giving his critics from seasons past plenty of crow to eat. The two key figures to watch from the Penguins side are Sidney Crosby (well obviously) and Chris Kunitz. Crosby leads the league in scoring with 39 points, 14 coming in the past 6 games. Meanwhile, Kunitz is second on that team in goals (14) and is +17 for the season. Like Kadri, he’s on a seven game point streak.
No secret to anyone, the Leafs are a physical team. Toronto leads the league with 773 hits and 27 major penalties. However, the biggest factor in this game could be speed on offense. Pittsburgh struggled with teams who can hit the blueline with speed and create a net presence in front of their goaltenders.
The goaltending battle could be decisive. James Reimer is widely expected to start the game for the Leafs. Both Marc-Andre Fleury and Tomas Vokoun have been lit up plenty of times this year and the duo is looking anything but convincing in nets.
Matt Frattin is good to go and will make his return to the Leafs lineup tonight. The Penguins have no major injuries at the moment.
GO LEAFS GO.
Dan Bylsma Pre-game