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Penguins vs. Maple Leafs Game Preview

Saturday, 02.26.2011 / 7:00 AM / Features
By Michelle Crechiolo
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Penguins vs. Maple Leafs Game Preview
Pittsburgh Penguins
Overall:
36-21-6-78
Home: 20-11-2-42
Road: 16-10-4-36

WHEN: Feb. 26, 2011 - 7:00 pm   |   WHERE: Air Canada Centre
WATCH:
FSN  |  LISTEN: Pens HD Radio, 105.9 FM
Toronto Maple Leafs
Overall:
27-27-2-61
Home: 14-11-6-34
Road:
13-16-1-27

  Pittsburgh Penguins at Toronto Maple Leafs 
 
      
Clarke MacArthur
LW  -  #16
  18 Goals
  28 Assists
  46 Points
• Is having a career year with Toronto, having already smashed his previous personal-bests of 17 goals, 14 assists and 31 points set in the 2008-09 campaign with Buffalo.

• Became the first player in Maple Leafs franchise history to score a goal in each of his first four games with the club after signing a free-agent contract with Toronto last summer.

• Came to the Maple Leafs from Atlanta, where he had played 21 games last season after spending parts of four seasons with the Sabres, who drafted him in the third round (74th overall) in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft.
 
Tyler Bozak
C  -  #42
  10 Goals
  13 Assists
  21 Points
• Hadn’t registered a point in 14 games before tallying two goals and an assist in Toronto’s 5-4 win over Montreal at the Bell Centre on Thursday.

• The center leads the Leafs with a 54.6-percent faceoff percentage and is second among Toronto forwards with an average of 19:28 of ice time per game.

• The undrafted forward signed a free-agent contract with the Leafs on April 4, 2009, after playing two seasons at the University of Denver.
 
Luke Schenn
D  -  #2
  2 goals
  12 assists
  14 points
• Leads all NHL defensemen in hits with 186 and is second on the team with 120 blocked shots – is the only player in the league to have over 180 hits and at least 100 blocked shots this season

• Made the Leafs roster out of training camp in September 2008 after being drafted in the first round (fifth overall) by Toronto in that summer’s NHL Entry Draft.

• Named to the 2008 NHL All-Rookie squad after leading all first-year blueliners in blocked shots and leading all league rookies in hits.
Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke has been busy starting the process of rebuilding his organization, unloading defensemen Francois Beauchemin and Tomas Kaberle along with forward Kris Versteeg in order to stockpile draft picks and add some fresh young faces to the mix.

But despite the turmoil in their lineup, the Maple Leafs are gelling and have been playing their best hockey of the season. They’ve earned nine of a possible 10 points in their last five games, are on an 8-2-2 run and have given themselves a chance to make the playoffs for the first time since 2004. It’s not a sure thing by any means, as eighth-place Carolina’s win over Pittsburgh on Friday gave the Hurricanes a six-point cushion in the standings over 10th-place Toronto – but it’s certainly not out of the question, especially with the way the Maple Leafs have been playing.

A hot goaltender can steal games for his team, and that’s exactly what rookie netminder James Reimer has been doing for the Maple Leafs. With injuries to Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Jonas Gustavsson, Reimer was thrust between the pipes in their steads and stepped up to the challenge in a big way. Reimer, who made his NHL debut on Dec. 20 versus Atlanta, will get the start against the Penguins on Saturday. He has backstopped his way to a 5-1-2 record since Feb. 3 and has been the main reason the Maple Leafs have turned their luck around.

And despite the departures of Kaberle and Beauchemin, the Maple Leafs still have an extremely capable defensive corps in front of Reimer. They’re led by captain Dion Phaneuf, who headlines a solid young core that also consists of third-year player Luke Schenn and rookie Keith Aulie.

If Reimer is hot, then forward Phil Kessel is scorching. Kessel couldn’t have picked a more appropriate time to heat up, as he’s seen his season interspersed with hot and cold streaks. But when Kessel is at his best, he’s one of those players that can dictate an entire game with the odes of natural talent he possesses – and he’s done that for five straight contests. He and linemate Tyler Bozak combined for seven points in Thursday’s 4-3 win over Montreal, while the recently acquired Joffrey Lupul, placed on the right wing of that line, created chaos away from the puck.
  • This is the Penguins’ first trip to Air Canada Centre this season. In a scheduling quirk, the Penguins will return to Pittsburgh for three days before flying right back to Toronto to face off with the Maple Leafs for the fourth and final meeting of the season series between the two teams. In between their two matchups with the Penguins, Toronto makes a visit to Atlanta on Feb. 27 to play the Thrashers at 5 p.m.
  • The two teams split the CONSOL Energy portion of the season series. Toronto notched a 4-3 victory on Oct. 13, a win that kept the Penguins winless (0-3) at the time in their new building. Pittsburgh avenged that loss with a 5-2 win on Dec. 8 as Sidney Crosby and Mark Letestu each scored a pair of goals.
  • The Penguins swept the season series at the Air Canada Centre last season, outscoring the Leafs, 9-3. Pittsburgh’s 2-0 record in Toronto marked the first time the team swept two or more games in Toronto in a single season since going 2-0 in 1984-85.
  • Not only are the Maple Leafs one of five NHL teams to have three 20-plus goal scorers this season in Phil Kessel (25), Mikhail Grabovski (24) and Nikolai Kulemin (21), but they also possess the league’s third-youngest roster with an average age of 26.3. Defenseman Luke Schenn is Toronto’s youngest player at 21 years, three months.
  • Pittsburgh finally received some good news on the injury front as center Dustin Jeffrey returned to the lineup on Friday after missing six straight games with a lower-body injury. The Penguins hope Jeffrey’s return reverses the team’s injury bug as forward Mark Letestu (lower body) and defenseman Paul Martin (upper body) are also close to returning according to head coach Dan Bylsma.
  • Pittsburgh has suffered 224 man-games lost due to injury, already surpassing last season’s total of 185. That number includes a combined 81 to arguably the team’s top-three offensive stars – Jordan Staal (39 games missed), Sidney Crosby (22) and Evgeni Malkin (20).

 

      
Contain Kessel: When Kessel goes, the whole team goes. Kessel is one of those dynamic presences that possesses the offensive flair and elite skillset that can take over a game, and he’s been doing just that over his last five tilts. He’s scored in four of Toronto’s last five games, and the one game he didn’t – a 1-0 shootout loss to Ottawa on Feb. 19 – he fired nine shots on net and logged a season-high 24:27 of ice time. The Penguins will need to keep him in their sights for the entire 60 minutes on Friday, as he has not only elevated his own game, but has bolstered linemates Tyler Bozak and Joffrey Lupul’s games as well.

Keep Shooting: The Penguins’ best scoring chances on Friday came when they just threw the puck to the net as quickly as possible. Pittsburgh’s players need to keep shooting often and hard – and from any and all angles. Hockey is a game of bounces, and the Penguins get a lucky one in their favor, it could turn everything around.
F Arron Asham, concussion (IR)
F Mike Comrie, hip (IR)
F Sidney Crosby, concussion (IR)
F Nick Johnson, concussion (day-to-day)
F Chris Kunitz, lower body (IR)
F Mark Letestu, lower body (IR)
F Evgeni Malkin, torn ACL and torn MCL (will miss remainder of season)
D Paul Martin, upper-body (day-to-day)
D Brooks Orpik, hand (4 weeks)
F Eric Tangradi, concussion (IR)
G Jean-Sebastien Giguere, groin (day-to-day)
G Jonas Gustavsson, heart (indefinitely)
RW Colton Orr, head (indefinitely)
 
 
 
 
G
Crosby (32) Kessel (25)
A
Letang (37) MacArthur (28)
PTS
Crosby (66) MacArthur (46)
PIM
Cooke (110) Orr (128)
+/-
Crosby (+20) Grabovski (+8)
PP
Crosby (10) Grabovski (9)
SH
Cooke (3)
Four tied with (1)
W/L
Fleury (27-16-4)
Reimer (10-4-2)
GAA
Johnson (2.26) Reimer (2.24)
SVP
Fleury (.920) Reimer (.931)

Zbynek Michalek - With losing two of their top defenseman to injury in Brooks Orpik and Paul Martin, Michalek has been a calming, steadying presence on the back end for the Penguins. The blueliner earned an assist in Friday on Pittsburgh's lone goal and has continued to be one of the Penguins' best shot blockers, as he's blocked 34 shots so far this month – including seven in Pittsburgh's 2-1 overtime win against Los Angeles on Feb. 10. He's also a cornerstone of the Penguins' top-ranked penalty kill, as he is averaging a team-leading 3:53 shorthanded minutes per contest.
 
Phil Kessel - After a 14-game goalless drought from Jan. 13 to Feb 12 that had trade rumors running rampant, Kessel has quieted his critics with his recent offensive explosion. He has six goals over his past five contests and put forth a four-point effort (2G-2A) in a 4-3 win over Montreal on Thursday. That performance came right after Kessel lifted the Leafs to a 2-1 victory over the New York Islanders on Tuesday by scoring the game-winning goal late in the third period. Kessel’s been getting pucks to the net, as his 263 shots rank second in the league, and his 25 tallies on the season pace the Leafs.
 
 
 
 

Aftermath: Hurricanes 4, Penguins 1 
Penguins Report: Game Day at Carolina
Back to the Future 
Acquiring Kovalev "A Commitment to Fans" 
Pens GM Shero's Transcript Following Kovalev Acquisition 
Penguins Acquire Alex Kovalev from Ottawa In Exchange for a Conditional Seventh-Round Pick 
Penguins' March 13 Game vs. Edmonton Oilers at CONSOL Energy Center to Start at 3 p.m. 


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WHEN: Feb. 26, 2011 - 7:00 pm
WHERE: Air Canada Centre
WATCH: FSN
LISTEN: Pens HD Radio, 105.9 FM



SCOUTING REPORT

Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke has been busy starting the process of rebuilding his organization, unloading defensemen Francois Beauchemin and Tomas Kaberle along with forward Kris Versteeg in order to stockpile draft picks and add some fresh young faces to the mix.

But despite the turmoil in their lineup, the Maple Leafs are gelling and have been playing their best hockey of the season. They've earned nine of a possible 10 points in their last five games, are on an 8-2-2 run and have given themselves a chance to make the playoffs for the first time since 2004. It's not a sure thing by any means, as eighth-place Carolina's win over Pittsburgh on Friday gave the Hurricanes a six-point cushion in the standings over 10th-place Toronto – but it's certainly not out of the question, especially with the way they've been playing.

A hot goaltender can steal games for his team, and that's certainly what rookie netminder James Reimer has been doing for the Maple Leafs. With injuries to Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Jonas Gustavsson, Reimer was thrust between the pipes in their steads – and stepped up to the challenge in a big way. Reimer, who made his NHL debut on Dec. 20 versus Atlanta, will get the start against the Penguins on Saturday. He has backstopped his way to a 5-1-2 record since Feb. 3 and has been the main reason the Maple Leafs have turned their luck around.

And despite the departures of Kaberle and Beauchemin, the Maple Leafs still have an extremely capable defensive corps in front of Reimer. They're led by captain Dion Phaneuf, who headlines a solid young core that also consists of Luke Schenn, who's already played 209 NHL games at age 21, and rookie Keith Aulie.

And if Reimer is hot, then forward Phil Kessel is scorching. Kessel couldn't have picked a more appropriate time to heat up, as he's seen his season interspersed with hot and cold streaks. But when Kessel is at his best, he's one of those players that can dictate an entire game with the odes of natural talent he possesses – and he's done that for five straight contests. He and linemate Tyler Bozak combined for seven points in Thursday's 4-3 win over Montreal, while the recently acquired Joffrey Lupul, placed on the right wing of that line, created chaos away from the puck.


INTERESTING STATS

* This is the Penguins' first trip to Air Canada Centre this season. In a scheduling quirk, the Penguins will return to Pittsburgh for three days before flying right back to Toronto to face off with the Maple Leafs for the fourth and final meeting of the season series between the two teams. In between their two matchups with the Penguins, Toronto makes a visit to Atlanta on Feb. 27 to play the Thrashers at 5 p.m.

* The two teams split the CONSOL Energy portion of the season series. Toronto notched a 4-3 victory on Oct. 13, a win that kept the Penguins winless (0-3) at the time in their new building. Pittsburgh avenged that loss with a 5-2 win on Dec. 8 as Sidney Crosby and Mark Letestu each scored a pair of goals.

* The Penguins swept the season series at the Air Canada Centre last season, outscoring the Leafs, 9-3. Pittsburgh's 2-0 record in Toronto marked the first time the team swept two or more games in Toronto in a single season since going 2-0 in 1984-85.

* Not only are the Maple Leafs one of five NHL teams to have three 20-plus goal scorers this season in Phil Kessel (25), Mikhail Grabovski (24) and Nikolai Kulemin (21), but they also possess the league's third-youngest roster with an average age of 26.3. Defenseman Luke Schenn is Toronto's youngest player at 21 years, three months.

* Pittsburgh finally received some good news on the injury front as center Dustin Jeffrey returned to the lineup on Friday after missing six straight games with a lower-body injury. The Penguins hope Jeffrey's return reverses the team's injury bug as forward Mark Letestu (lower body) and defenseman Paul Martin (upper body) are also close to returning according to head coach Dan Bylsma.

* Pittsburgh has suffered 224 man-games lost due to injury, already surpassing last season's total of 185. That number includes a combined 81 to arguably the team's top-three offensive stars – Jordan Staal (39 games missed), Sidney Crosby (22) and Evgeni Malkin (20).


KEYS TO THE GAME

Contain Kessel: When Kessel goes, the whole team goes. Kessel is one of those dynamic presences that possesses the offensive flair and elite skillset that can take over a game, and he's been doing just that over his last five tilts. He's scored in four of Toronto's last five games, and the one game he didn't – a 1-0 shootout loss to Ottawa on Feb. 19 – he fired nine shots on net and logged a season-high 24:27 of ice time. The Penguins will need to keep him in their sights for the entire 60 minutes on Friday, as he has not only elevated his own game, but has bolstered linemates Tyler Bozak and Joffrey Lupul's games as well.

Keep Shooting: The Penguins' best scoring chances on Friday came when they just threw the puck to the net as quickly as possible. Pittsburgh's players need to keep shooting often and hard – and from any and all angles. Hockey is a game of bounces, and the Penguins get a lucky one in their favor, it could turn everything around.


WHO'S HOT

Zbynek Michalek - Despite losing two of their top defenseman to injury in Brooks Orpik and Paul Martin, Michalek has been a steadying presence on the back end for the Penguins. The blueliner earned an assist in Friday on Pittsburgh's lone goal and has continued to be one of the Penguins' best shot blockers, as he's blocked 34 shots so far this month – including seven in Pittsburgh's 2-1 overtime win against Los Angeles on Feb. 10. He's also a cornerstone of the Penguins' top-ranked penalty kill, as he is averaging a team-leading 3:53 shorthanded minutes per contest.

Phil Kessel - After a 14-game goalless drought from Jan. 13 to Feb 12 that had trade rumors running rampant, Kessel has quieted his critics with his recent offensive explosion. He has six goals over his past five contests and put forth a four-point effort (2G-2A) in a 4-3 win over Montreal on Thursday. That performance came right after Kessel lifted the Leafs to a 2-1 victory over the New York Islanders on Tuesday by scoring the game-winning goal late in the third period. Kessel's been getting pucks to the net, as his 263 shots rank second in the league, and his 25 tallies on the season pace the Leafs.


Author: Michelle Crechiolo
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