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Maple Leafs game preview: two cups, one Kessel

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The Leafs have back-to-back games this weekend starting tonight in Pittsburgh.

NHL: Toronto Maple Leafs at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Maple Leafs vs. Penguins: Game # 60

Time: 7:00PM EDT

Location: PPG Paints Arena, Pittsburgh

Broadcast/Streaming: Sportsnet (not on CBC because of the Olympic Games)

Opponent SBNation Site: Pensburgh

The Leafs are on a winning streak that now extends to five games. The Penguins have won eight of the last ten played. It’s a good old-fashioned clash of the titans.

We’re only about nine days away from the NHL trade deadline. The Leafs traded away Nikita Soshnikov, who wasn’t playing frequently anyway. There’s talk out there of “possibilities” but it’s becoming more likely that both the Leafs and Penguins will go forward to the playoffs with the rosters they have tonight.

Oh. Wait. There is one player the Penguins may want to get rid of...

Matt Hunwick! LOL. His contract runs through to the end of the 2019-20 season with a salary cap impact of $2.25M. Get on the phone, Peter Chiarelli!

Here is the best available lineup information as of the time of publishing. If there are any major changes we will update this in the afternoon.

UPDATE: Mark Masters says Jake Gardiner confirmed he’s playing.

Toronto Maple Leafs (from recent practice)

Forward Lines

Zach Hyman - Auston Matthews - William Nylander
Patrick Marleau - Nazem Kadri - Mitch Marner
James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - Connor Brown
Leo Komarov - Dominic Moore - Kasperi Kapanen

Not Playing: Josh Leivo, Matt Martin

Defence Pairings

Morgan Rielly - Ron Hainsey
Jake Gardiner - Nikita Zaitsev
Travis Dermott - Connor Carrick

Not Playing: Roman Polak

Goaltenders

Starting (not yet confirmed): Frederik Andersen
Backup: Curtis McElhinney

Pittsburgh Penguins (from recent morning skate)

Forward Lines

Zach Aston-Reese - Sidney Crosby - Conor Sheary
Carl Hagelin - Evgeni Malkin - Bryan Rust
Jake Guentzel - Riley Sheahan - Phil Kessel
Dominik Simon - Carter Rowney - Ryan Reaves

Injured: Patric Hornqvist

Defence Pairings

Brian Dumoulin - Kris Letang
Olli Maatta - Justin Schultz
Ian Cole - Jamie Oleksiak

Not playing: Matt Hunwick

Goaltenders

Starting (not yet confirmed): Matt Murray
Backup: Tristan Jarry

The last time these two teams faced each other was December 9, a game which the Leafs won 4-3. Tyler Bozak scored twice in that game. That’s significant considering it’s two of only eight he has scored all season.

Since that game Bozak has scored only twice, the most recent in the game on January 6th. The Leafs have played 16 games since then. He’s now on pace for an 11 goal season.

Maybe he misses his best buddy, Phil?

You need to bring your best offence to the table against the Penguins, because you know they sure will. After a slow and disappointing start to their season, the Penguins are on a roll. You don’t need advanced stats for a comparison here, just the raw numbers.

Malkin, Kessel, and Crosby all have 66 points so far this season. The Leafs are led by Matthews with 47. Malkin is actually second in the league with 32 goals. Andersen neds to have an A+ game tonight. One key to success is if they can draw some penalties. We know Kadri loves to be a pest to Crosby, maybe that can help out tonight.

It would sure be fun if the Leafs could replicate the success of the Rochester Americans last night who clobbered the AHL Penguins by a score of 12-3.

It’s Hockey Night in Canada and a clash of the Eastern Conference titans. GO LEAFS GO!

Poll

Will Bozak break his 16 game goal-drought tonight?

This poll is closed

  • 27%
    Yes! He wants to show up Phil.
    (103 votes)
  • 11%
    He will get a hat trick specifically because you brought this up, Species.
    (44 votes)
  • 37%
    Sigh. Probably not.
    (141 votes)
  • 23%
    LOL NO.
    (88 votes)
376 votes total Vote Now