MORNING SKATE BUZZ
Leafs (14-9-1, 29 pts) @ Penguins (15-9-1, 31 pts)
— The loss of Paul Martin is an obvious blow to the Penguins but don’t expect Martin’s injury to have any impact on his roster spot with Team USA. He’s on the team.
— The Penguins continue to make some odd personnel decisions and they have continued with the decision to send Brian Gibbons down and recalling Chris Conner. The Penguins sent a smallish player in Gibbons down for an even smaller and less productive player in Chris Conner. Conner, 5-foot-6, will play on the third line with Brandon Sutter and Andrew Ebbett. You won’t find a more smaller third line on the wings than the Penguins will have tonight in Conner and Ebbett.
Two smart callup’s for the Penguins tonight, though, were Jason Megna and Simon Despres. But, it’s no guarantee Despres is in the lineup tonight as Despres or Robert Bortuzzo will be the odd-man out on the blueline. Zach Sill will be a healthy scratch upfront.
Megna will start the game on the fourth line with Joe Vitale and Craig Adams. He appears to be more of an ideal fit on the third line with Brandon Sutter but the Penguins continue to believe that having a skilled third line is the answer in this league but it’s not 2009 anymore. The game is changing.
— The Leafs coming off an embarrassing 6-0 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, should have no problem imposing their toughness and physicality tonight. The Leafs announced moments ago that Joffrey Lupul will miss around two weeks due to a strained groin.
Marc Andre Fleury will get the start in goal. Fleury is 13-7-1 on the season with a 2.05 GAA and .919 save percentage. He’s been a different goaltender at home than on the road. Fleury is 9-2-0 with a 1.54 GAA and .941 save percentage at home, compared to 4-5-1 with a 2.62 GAA and .883 save percentage on the road.
Despite some of Fleury’s great numbers this season such as a 2.05 goals-against-average, one scout I spoke with still expressed some concerns about Fleury. One concern I’ve gathered has been Fleury not coming up with those big saves in games the Penguins are dominating in the first period then suddenly fall behind. The game in Boston was one of those situations.
— Jonathan Bernier (8-6-1, 2.17 GAA, .934 SV%) will start in goal for the Leafs.
A look at tonight’s expected lineup
Chris Kunitz – Sidney Crosby – Pascal Dupuis
Jussi Jokinen – Evgeni Malkin – James Neal
Chris Conner – Brandon Sutter – Andrew Ebbett
Craig Adams – Joe Vitale – Jason Megna
Brooks Orpik – Kris Letang
Olli Maatta – Deryk Engelland
Matt Niskanen – Robert Bortuzzo or Simon Despres
Marc Andre Fleury