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Toronto Maple Leafs game preview: I thought the season was over...

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Turns out it still has another....month to go? Aw man.

Toronto Maple Leafs v Pittsburgh Penguins Photo by Matt Kincaid/Getty Images

So apparently the Maple Leafs just had a four day long gap between games in March. I thought it was the NHL’s usual momentum killing playoff gaps, but no it’s just a momentum killing gap in the middle of the worst part of the season, between the traded deadline excitement and the playoffs, where we’re all just yelling at the season to end already and take us to the fireworks factory.

Toronto Maple Leafs vs Pittsburgh Penguins
7:00PM - Air Canada Centre
Watch: CBC, CBC.ca, NHL Live, Sportsnet, Sportsnet Now, ATTSN-PT, NHL Network, City-TV
Less Cool SBN site: Pensburgh

So the Maple Leafs are in Pittsburgh, taking on the back to back Stanley Cup champions, on a four game losing streak that so far includes two games where the Leafs gave up five goals (losing to the Capitals 5-2 and an embarrassing loss to the Sabres 5-3). The Penguins are currently leading the Metro division with 82 points, which his nice and all but the Leafs are third in the Atlantic with 85.

Not that I’m saying the Leafs are a better team, the Penguins have some of the greatest players right now on their rosters, but I can be technical and say they’re a better franchise. Being technically correct is the best way of being correct.

Toronto Maple Leafs projected lines

Zach Hyman - William Nylander - Mitchell Marner
Patrick Marleau - Nazem Kadri - Leo Komarov
James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - Connor Brown
Josh Leivo - Tomas Plekanec - Kasperi Kapanen

Auston Matthews is still injured, though he’s in practice wearing a non-contact jersey. The long delay between games is nice for the injured players, at least. The Leafs are still giving Nylander a shot at centre, rather than the Marleau experiment - and Hyman is still stapled to that first line. I’ll toss my name into the ring with the others wanting to see Nylander centre Kapanen. No Matt Martin again, hopefully he enjoys his final few months with the Leafs, and is ready to move on July 2nd. Turtleneck Pleks is off to a rough start in Toronto, hopefully tonight he can turn things around.

Morgan Rielly - Ron Hainsey
Jake Gardiner - Nikita Zaitsev
Travis Dermott - Roman Polak

Oh ew Roman Polak they’ll all say, but it’s a tough opponent so Connor Carrick sits, otherwise it’s the usual defenders.

Frederik Andersen
Curtis McElhinney

Freddie starts, because this isn’t a back to back.

Projected Pittsburgh Penguins lines:

Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Connor Sheary
Carl Hagelin - Evgeni Malkin - Patric Hornqvist
Riley Sheahan - Derrick Brassard - Phil Kessel
Tom Kuhnhackl - Josh Jooris - Carter Rowney

Bryan Rust and Dominik Simon were injured in the Penguins previous game against the Flyers, so they’re out which is fine, but it’s not like the Penguins are mising crosby or Malkin or Kessel or Hornqvist or....why are the Penguins lower in the standings than the Leafs?

Brian Dumoulin - Kris Letang
Jamie Oleksiak - Justin Schultz
Olli Maata - Chad Ruhwedel

I always like to see former IceDogs in the NHL and the Penguins have two!

Tristan Jarry
Casey DeSmith

Matt Murray is still out with a concussion, so it’s back up and back-back up tending net for the Penguins.

Numbers Preview

Maple Leafs Team Devils
Maple Leafs Team Devils
265GF - 226GA - +29 Goal Differential 238GF - 234GA - +4
24.4% - 2nd overall Power Play 21.7 - 10th overall
81.3% - 12th overall Penalty Kill 81.9% - 7th overall
James van Riemsdyk - 36 Most Goals Taylor Hall - 39
Mitch Marner - 47 Most Assists Taylor Hall - 54
Mitch Marner - 69 Most Points Taylor Hall - 93
Matt Martin - 50 Most PM Miles Wood - 84
Jake Gardiner - 22:33/G TOI Leader Sami Vatanen - 22:42
Frederik Andersen - .917sv% Starting Goalie Keith Kincaid - .911sv%

The Maple Leafs are in for a tough game today, with four days of rest/rust to shake off, and missing their franchise centre the Leafs will need to show that they’re not always the doormat for the worst teams in the NHL (I’m sorry to be harsh but losing to the Coyotes AND Sabres?!) and have the chops to hang consistently with the best in the NHL. They beat the Penguins back in December, now’s the time to do it again.