According to the heading of a mini-article in the Toronto Star written by sports reporter, Kevin McGran, “The Leafs need a plan and a prayer” when they take on the Pittsburgh Penguins and star player, Sidney Crosby, who has 24 goals and 24 assists in 29 games.
As a team, Pittsburgh has boasted a perfect 10-0-0 in the last 10 games played. With a 19-8-2 record overall, the Penguins are at the top of the NHL standings with most wins and points. Tonight, they will be looking to remain perfect by getting their 11th straight win when they host the Leafs, who have won two in a row (both games decided via shootout) and have gone 5-4-1 in their last 10.
If the Leafs can muster up the same persistence and character shown in Monday’s game against the Washington Capitals, where Toronto managed to make a surprising comeback from a 4-1 deficit, winning 5-4 in a shootout, Toronto will have won three in a row and will also improve their record on the road. At home the Penguins are 9-5-1 while the Leafs have been struggling on the road this season (3-7-1).
In the last four visits to Pittsburgh, dating back to December 2008, the Leafs have gone 3-0-1, winning the first meeting between the two teams this season in a 4-3 victory, on October 13th. Two of the goals were scored by Clarke MacArthur who currently leads the Leafs in points with 9 goals and 12 assists.
With Colby Armstrong back in the lineup after missing 16 games with a hand injury and Jay Rosehill called up from the AHL, the Leafs appear to have picked up some steam in terms of physical play and making hits to add that touch of toughness the young Leafs are often criticized for lacking.
Captain Dion Phaneuf still remains out of the lineup after being injured on a collision with Ottawa Senators winger, Peter Regin, where his skate just barely missed a major artery in Phaneuf’s leg. As per NHL’s Dan Rosen, Phaneuf has been back on the ice skating with the team since Saturday and could return as early as Thursday. As quoted by Wilson, “He could play tomorrow…We haven’t decided yet.”
With Phaneuf being out of the lineup, the Leafs have only been able to pick up 5 wins. Once the Leafs return to full strength and have a once again healthy lineup, it might just be what the team needs to get them going in improving their record and their spot in the Eastern Conference standings, where currently the Leafs are 13th in the East, and 28th overall.
The starting goaltenders for tonight will be Jonas Gustavsson for Toronto and Marc-Andre Fleury for Pittsburgh.
Gustavsson with a .903 SV% has been a stellar improvement for the team this season, and if you have been following the developing goaltender as of late, you would be able to notice his much improved confidence and ability to come up big, with crucial saves, putting the Leafs in a good position in terms of owning a reliable, starting goaltender. For Pittsburgh, Fleury has been hot as of late, where he has gone 11-0-1 in his last 12 starts.
Puck drop is set for 7 p.m from the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh.