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Pittsburgh

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    Although the Maple Leafs did not dip into the trade waters just yet, there were a couple events of importance that may determine how the next two days will shake out:

    - Alexei Ponikarovsky left practice with a knee injury but did later return to finish it, albeit gingerly. Nearing its conclusion, he did head into the locker room accompanied by the team’s trainers, but it appears as if he was walking under his own power. Needless to say, any potential injury scares may affect the number of bidding for the Ukranian winger, particularly if teams are unable to get one last look at him on Tuesday night.

    - The Penguins swung a trade for some veteran help on the blueline, sending a 2010 2nd round pick to the Panthers for Jordan Leopold. Later on during the day, the Predators sent their 2010 2nd round pick to the Oilers for Grebeshkov. This certainly puts an interesting twist on things if you believe the rumors and speculation. The Leafs were apparently offered a 2nd round pick and prospect for Ponikarovsky a few weeks ago, but now two of the most prominent teams mentioned in rumors (Pittsburgh this year and Nashville at last year’s deadline) have dealt that selection away.

    With Wilson, Burke and Kessel all taking the day to fly back from Vancouver, we might expect to finally see some action on Tuesday.

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      With the Olympics wrapping up (and in the process Canada securing the record for most gold medals, capped off by our Men’s and Women’s hockey teams), the focus among hockey fans now shifts to the NHL trade deadline.

      While there are few untouchables on the Maple Leafs’ roster, speculation is that only a handful of players are likely to be dealt between Monday and Wednesday. Here’s a look at some of the speculation surrounding the most-talked about candidates to swap jerseys.

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        The Toronto Star provides us with a couple interesting tidbits about potential trade talks leading up to the deadline:

        - Ponikarovsky continues to be heavily linked to Pittsburgh. Previously, we learned from CBC’s Hotstove that one team had offered the Leafs a 2nd round draft pick along with a prospect, which clearly was not enough for Burke to bite. He is likely holding out for a more prominent prospect than the one that was initially offered.

        - Several key Maple Leaf front office members and scouting staff watched the Marlies – Bears game at Ricoh on Wednesday night. With the Hershey Bears being the Capitals’ AHL affiliate, there is certainly speculation that there may be some serious trade talks happening between the two clubs. The Capitals are far and away the league’s highest scoring team, so they may be more interested in either a defensive forward or a reliable stay-at-home defenseman. However, there is also the possibility that the Leafs’ staff may have just taken advantage of the time off to evaluate which Marlies players could be included in trades or be potential NHL call-ups to fill out the roster after the deadline.

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          With the NHL’s Olympic Trade Freeze about to hit at 3pm today, reports out of Pittsburgh indicate that the Maple Leafs had scouted the Penguins’ Wednesday game against the Islanders. The obvious trade fit here would  seem to be a winger such as Alexei Ponikarovsky or even Lee Stempniak. However, the Pens currently have about $600 k available in cap space, so any significant acquisition means that another roster player would have to be going the other way.

          Dreger had speculated a few days ago that the Leafs were looking for a 2nd round pick along with a roster player in exchange for Ponikarovsky, which is certainly consistent with Burke’s moves as Toronto GM. Realizing a lack of quality grinders on his team, Brian has been gradually and subtly requesting that teams include quality 3rd and 4th line players in a couple of his deals (see Primeau in the Stralman deal and Sjostrom in the Phaneuf deal). So perhaps Tyler Kennedy or Pascal Dupuis along with a draft pick coming back the Leafs’ way would be the most feasible framework around which to base a deal.

          Should be an interesting day ahead.

          [email protected]

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            Where will goals come from? Toronto softened offensively with the moves on the weekend and questions abound about who will put the puck in the net moving forward.

            Maybe it’s not about who will make up the scoring; instead, with all these moves – and proved in the 3-0 win over the Devils – in the Leafs case, the best offense, is a solid defense.

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              Last season, Phil Kessel registered 14 of 24 assists in an 18-game span, with 10 more over 58 games. He battled an ugly 14-game goalless skid (14-0-3-3), three games before going down to a case of mono in January, and 11 games after his return.

              In short, assists aren’t his strong suit. He’s had more goals than assists in every season except his rookie season.

              Well, break your selfish streak, Mr. Kessel and you’ll break your slump. One assist at a time.

              Here’s how

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                I’m about as optimistic a person as they come, but tonight’s loss against a struggling Penguins team just hammers home the message that there simply isn’t enough skill on this roster. It was a pretty bland effort overall as they couldn’t capitalize on key scoring chances and made a few mental mistakes that resulted in the back of their net.

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                  The Toronto Maple Leafs were amongst leaders in 2009 for all the wrong categories. The Buds were the most scored upon team in 2009, playing an NHL leading 13 overtime games (2-11) record, and NHL trailing overtime winning percentage (.154).

                  Broken down after the jump is how the Leafs fared in the calendar year 2009.

                  Best Wishes for a Happy New Year to everyone!

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                    Despite the many talking heads who continue to suggest that Ian White is not a top-four defender anywhere other than Toronto, a growing number of personalities both in the blogs and the mainstream media are beginning to recognize his value as a hockey player as he continues  to consistently provide outstanding effort at both ends of the rink.

                    Although much of the talk has centred around White’s play looking so good because of the lack of talent around him, and that on a deeper team he’d be buried, I say let’s spin that argument on its head.   The fact that he doesn’t have a ton of talent around him is evidence of just how good a hockey player he is, dare I say one of the more underrated players in the entire league.   Before you write me off completely as some fanboy lunatic for suggesting that, let’s take a look at the numbers first.

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                      With just 6 more games to go for the GFWE contest, get in your predictions and shoot for the chance to win some Leafs tickets!  Let’s all hope our team gives us a late Christmas present by taking the win tonight against Pittsburgh.

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                        The Pittsburgh Penguins are one of three teams without a shutout this season. They have been shutout four times, allowing 15 goals. They’ve scored 98 goals in wins and a paltry 12 in losses. Of the 44 goals they’ve allowed in losses, 15 come by way of shutouts.

                        The latest takes on it’s infamy as the record-breaking shutout by a most deserving, Martin Brodeur.

                        The New Jersey Devils are one of five teams that have not been shutout this season. Brodeur’s three shutouts for the Devils this season set up and then smashed the all time shutout record.

                        In honour of the new shutout record at 104 – and counting – the following are the to-date shutouts and numbers in the NHL in 2009-10.

                          94

                          Did the neutral zone trap morph into the shootout? The pre-lockout reason for altering the rules, transfigured into the shootout as teams play for the shootout more this season. If trends are any indication, perhaps the two memes have a direct correlation.

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                            By: Gus Katsaros
                            Prior to the season starting, I had written about the impact of schedules. In particular, as the Leafs face the Habs tonight after playing the previous night, while Montreal is rested. Interesting enough, the last time this happened, Toronto beat Detroit 5-1.

                            Schedules make a big difference in the results of NHL teams fates during the season. In some instances, it could be the difference between a playoff spot and a tee time (and I thoroughly enjoy both – FORRRREEEE!!).

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                              Its the fourth installment of Stick Work with Fab & Kats.
                              Guests on this show include Brian Metzer, stalwart XM Radio correspondant and featured Penguins bloggger on Network Pittsburgh and hockeybuzz.com. We’ll touch on some Penguins rookies, the injury-ravaged defense, as well as two underperforming forwards.

                              Edward Fraser from The Hockey News chimes in on the Los Angeles Kings, Leafs opponent Carolina, Chicago and Luke Schenn.

                              Fab and I discuss our choices for Torontosaurus Rex, and boy, did Fab ever make a stretch this one …..

                              We like to give our guests the opportunity to choose their own intro theme music … while Brian’s is more recent, we’ve given Fraser’s request for Rage a different twist.

                              StickWork

                              Download as mp3

                              Enjoy the Leafs/Carolina game and make sure to view Micheal Aldred’s preview – despite the warnings.
                              [email protected]
@katshockey

                                894

                                The Rangers are riding a 4 game win streak, the Leafs are not. The Rangers have a goal differential of +8 in their last 4 games, the Leafs have a goal differential of -6 in their last 3 games. The Rangers are 5th in the league on the PK (88%), while the Leafs are last (53.8%). The Rangers are 4th in the league for goals against per game (2.00). The Leafs are tied in last place with Florida at 4.25.

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                                  Ed. Note: Meet Daniel Santos, the newest member of the MLHS blogging team. Daniel serves as the Editorial Coordinator for The Score, and formerly blogged about the Maple Leafs for The Score’s “Six Pack.” Welcome, Dan.

                                  Well, the comeback kids couldn’t do it tonight. Unlike last night against Pittsburgh, The Leafs couldn’t overcome a slow start tonight and fell 3-2 to the Buffalo Sabres.

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                                    The following are the lineups for both teams tonight. The Leafs are going to get a closer look at their top 4 defensive pairings and check out the rest of the young guns competing for jobs.

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                                      Per the Globe and Mail: “The lineup for the Leafs’ first preseason game against the Boston Bruins at the Air Canada Centre on Wednesday will contain plenty of youngsters like Nazem Kadri, Tyler Bozak, Phil Oreskovic, Jay Rosehill, Andre Deveaux as well as veterans Colton Orr, Wayne Primeau and Jason Allison, who is trying to make a comeback. Look for Allison to centre a line with Jiri Tlusty and Nikolai Kulemin on the wings. Joey MacDonald will play half of the game in goal.”

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                                        Wednesday night’s tilt between the Maple Leafs and Penguins was by far the sloppiest game the Leafs have played thus far, with a 4-1 Pittsburgh victory the end result.

                                        Simply put, the players looked as though they lacked energy from the outset.   Was it fatigue from the toll of three games in four days?   Or was it simply a poor outing, as is prone to happen to all teams, from time to time?   The answer to that may lie in Thursday evening’s game against the Senators.

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                                          Some quick links and discussion points for a quiet Tuesday night. Plenty to talk about including the highlights of a Burke media scrum at the grand opening of the Mastercard Centre for Hockey Excellence (MCHE), the GM’s speak out on the Phil Kessel situation and the possibility of an offer sheet, rookie tournament video highlights and the latest developments in the ongoing Phoenix Coyotes ownership drama.