Penguins (19-8-0, 38 pts) @ Leafs (15-11-1, 31 pts)
The Penguins and Leafs faceoff for the second time in five days and third time this season. Both teams teams have split the two meetings and combined for 16 goals. Expect another exciting brand of hockey tonight.
As we near the 30 game mark, the Penguins are in great position and appear ticketed for the No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference, barring an unforeseen collapse. The Penguins hold a comfortable seven point lead over the New Jersey Devils (13-9-5, 31 pts) in the Atlantic Division and 10 point lead over the preseason favorites New York Rangers (13-10-2, 28 pts) who have two games in hand.
The Penguins, Boston Bruins (17-4-3, 37 pts) and Montreal Canadiens (18-5-4, 40 pts) are the top contenders for the No. 1 or No. 2 seed.
The Penguins matchup with the Leafs tonight could very well be a potential 1-8 or 2-7 playoff series in the first round. The Leafs are currently sixth in the Eastern Conference and are likely to fall anywhere between 5th and 10th in the conference by the end of the regular season.
Toronto would be an intriguing matchup for the Penguins as they cause the Penguins trouble due to their team speed. “Leafs have really good team speed,” defenseman Brooks Orpik said today via Penguins. “Three lines that are good offensively and it’s the overall team speed that gives us trouble.”
While the Leafs could give the Penguins a scare, it remains to be seen if their goaltending would hold up to be able to pull off an upset.
*Marc Andre Fleury (13-5-0, 2.67 GAA) will get the start in goal for the Penguins. Fleury is 1-1 vs the Maple Leafs this season and has given up 9 goals in two starts. Ben Scrivens (6-7-0, 2.51 GAA) will start for the Leafs.
*All signs point to Simon Despres getting back in the lineup tonight for the Penguins. Despres was paired with Kris Letang. With Despres back in, Mark Eaton is expected to come out of the lineup. As the Boston game progressed, Bylsma went away from the Eaton – Letang pairing some but the word I’ve been getting on Eaton is that the Penguins want to monitor his workload in situations where the Penguins play three games in four days.
*For the Leafs, defenseman John-Michael Liles will play tonight after being a healthy scratch for 12 straight games.
Kunitz – Crosby – Dupuis
Bennett – Jeffrey – Neal
Cooke – Sutter – Kennedy
Glass – Vitale – Adams
Orpik – Martin
Despres – Letang
Niskanen – Engelland
Marc Andre Fleury in goal
Van Riemsdyk – Bozak – Kessel
McClement – Grabovski – Kulemin
MacArthur – Kadri – Frattin
McLaren – Komarov – Orr
Phaneuf – Holzer
Liles – Gunnarsson
Fraser – Franson
Ben Scrivens expected to start in goal
Tidbits: Word is Evgeni Malkin could be cleared to return to action this weekend.