Preview and GDT: Maple Leafs at Penguins (7 p.m., Sportsnet)

Preview and GDT: Maple Leafs at Penguins (7 p.m., Sportsnet)

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A great win over the League champs can quickly be forgotten if the Leafs don’t take it as a turnaround point amid a poor December. They’re now through  the toughest part of their schedule and have to get back to accumulating points with 15 of their next 16 games against Eastern opponents.

The top 4 of this Penguins team’s defence has been decimated (i.e. entirely eliminated) by injuries (Martin, Letang, Orpik, Scuderi), and their fifth D, Derek Engelland, is waiting to be suspended. James Neal is suspended, as well. Evgeni Malkin is out after crashing into the boards leg first against Detroit. For tonight’s game, check out the NHL betting odds.

Despite all the lineup depletion, the Pens enter tonight winners of three straight (five of their last six). The Penguins historically have persevered better than expected when faced with significant injuries, although these are particularly daunting.

Malkin being out should help the Leafs focus their shutdown efforts a little more on #87. McClement, playing alongside Kulemin and D’Amigo, played 10 of his 14 and a half even strength minutes against Jonathan Toews, Parick Sharp and Marian Hossa while starting 80% of his shifts in the defensive zone. That line scored twice and won the possession battle.

For the Leafs, the lineup remains the same because why wouldn’t it?

JVR-Kadri-Kessel
Raymond-Holland-Lupul
D’Amigo-McClement-Kulemin
McLaren-Smith-Bodie

Gunnarsson-Phaneuf
Gardiner-Franson
Rielly-Liles

Bernier

Alec Brownscombe is the founder of MapleLeafsHotStove.com, where he has written daily about the Leafs since September of 2008. He was also the editor of the 2009-12 Maple Leafs Annuals. You can contact him at [email protected]