The Maple Leafs are in Pittsburgh taking on the hottest team in the league for a true ‘measuring stick’ game.

Looking at the table below, it’s easy to see why the Penguins have reclaimed the position as the elite team in the East. Best record in the league. Check. Best goal differential. Check. Most goals for. Check. Best power play. Check.

They aren’t lacking in any one area of the game right now and are piping hot with a 7-2-1 record in their last 10 games.

The Leafs are the Leafs we’ve come to know with this core group. Lights out one night, and getting their lights shot out the next night.

There is a noticeable improvement in the Leafs game this season and you can see that in some of the good games they’ve had this season; the process behind their improvement is markedly better. They are winning games they deserve to win and losing games they are meant to. Last season, there weren’t any games, at this stage in the season, where they could hang their hat on it and say: “We were the better team tonight”. Through 21 games, the Leafs were able to keep a team under 30 shots only twice last season. That’s happened 5 times this season through same amount of games. Is it great? No, it isn’t. It’s a hellova lot better than what was the on-ice product last year.

The Maple Leafs are going to have to stay out of the box. Period. Pittsburgh is running along red hot pace and will extinguish any chance the Leafs have of winning with too many PP opportunities.

The Leafs had a number of chances to put the game away vs the Penguins the last time that they met and they are going to have to capitalize on those this time around if they are going to give themselves any chance of staying with the Penguins.

It should be an entertaining game, either way. Both teams can score goals, both teams can skate and it could turn into a track meet, as it has in the previous 3 seasons.

Toronto Maple Leafs vs Pittsburgh Penguins - Head to Head

Head to Head:Maple LeafsPenguins
Record10-8-2 (.571% - 15th)10-4-5 (.750 - 1st)
Goal Differential+4+26
GF/G3.19 (3rd)3.50 (1st)
GA/G2.95 (23rd)2.25 (6th)
SF/G30.5 (13th)31.7 (17th)
SA/G33.0 (24th)29.7 (15th)
PP20.3% (16th)33.3% (1st)
PK84.3% (7th)87.8% (4th)
5v5 Sh%9.01% (5th)9.01% (6th)
5v5 Sv%91.43% (21st)93.33% (8th)
FO%52.2% (8th)50% (15th)

Maple Leafs Projected Lineup

James van Riemsdyk – Tyler Bozak – Phil Kessel
Leo Komarov – Nazem Kadri – Mike Santorelli
Daniel Winnik – Peter Holland – David Clarkson
David Booth – Trevor Smith – Joffrey Lupul

Dion Phaneuf – Cody Franson
Jake Gardiner – Morgan Rielly
Stephane Robidas — Korbinian Holzer

Jonathan Bernier
James Reimer

Scratched: Carter Ashton, Richard Panik
Injured: Brandon Kozun (high ankle sprain), Roman Polak (knee)

Penguins Projected Lineup

Nick Spaling – Sidney Crosby – Patric Hornqvist
Chris Kunitz – Evgeni Malkin – Blake Comeau
Steve Downie – Brandon Sutter – Jayson Megna
Zach Sill – Marcel Goc – Craig Adams

Paul Martin – Kris Letang
Olli Maatta – Christian Ehrhoff
Rob Scuderi – Simon Despres

Marc-Andre Fleury
Thomas Greiss

Scratched: Robert Bortuzzo
Injured: Pascal Dupuis (blood clot), Beau Bennett (lower body)

Status report: Despres has played the past two games alongside Scuderi after being scratched against the New York Islanders on Friday. He has rotated with Bortuzzo on a pairing next to Scuderi during recent morning skates. … Three Maple Leafs, Lupul, Kozun and Booth, have missed at least 12 regular-season games because of injury. Lupul is expected to miss at least another three weeks.

Who’s hot: Malkin is on pace to score at least 40 goals for the third time in nine seasons. He has scored three goals across his past two games and has 10 on the season, tied with Hornqvist for the team-lead. … Bozak scored two goals against Detroit and has scored four points in his past two games. He is second on the team, behind Kessel, with 19 points.