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Penguins vs. Maple Leafs Game Preview

Tuesday, 03.01.2011 / 9:00 PM / Features
By Michelle Crechiolo
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Penguins vs. Maple Leafs Game Preview
Pittsburgh Penguins
Overall:
37-21-6-80
Home: 20-11-2-42
Road: 17-10-4-38

WHEN: March 2, 2011 - 7:00 pm   |   WHERE: Air Canada Centre
WATCH:
FSN, Versus  |  LISTEN: Pens HD Radio, 105.9 FM
Toronto Maple Leafs
Overall:
27-27-9-63
Home: 14-11-7-35
Road:
13-16-2-28

  Pittsburgh Penguins at Toronto Maple Leafs 
 
      
Joffrey Lupul
RW  -  #19
  7 Goals
  11 Assists
  18 Points
• Lupul – acquired from Anaheim on Feb. 9 in exchange for defenseman Francois Beauchemin – thrives against the Penguins, as he leads all Toronto players with 11 goals and 17 points in 16 career games against Pittsburgh.

• Was limited to just 23 contests last season after undergoing surgery on a herniated disc in his back – he had been on pace for a career-high 36 goals at the time of his injury.

• Had notched 20 or more goals in three of the four seasons before that, including a personal-best 28 tallies and 53 points in 2005-06.
 
Mikhail Grabovski
C  -  #84
  2 Goals
  3 Assists
  5 Points
• His 24 goals have eclipsed his previous career-high set two seasons ago when he led all Eastern Conference rookies in scoring with 20 goals and 48 points through 78 games.

• Nine of his goals have come on the man-advantage, as he averages 3:09 of power-play minutes per game.

• Was acquired by Toronto from Montreal in the summer of 2008 in exchange for the rights to defenseman Greg Pateryn and a second-round pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.
 
Nikolai Kulemin
LW - #41
  22 goals
  22 assists
  42 points
• His 22 goals represent a new personal-best, smashing his previous career-high of 16 set last season through 78 games.

• Hails from Magnitogorsk, Russia – the same city as Evgeni Malkin – playing alongside the Penguins forward for one season in 2005-06 with Metallurg Magnitogorsk of the Russian Super League.

• Won the Russian Super League MVP award in 2007 after being drafted in the second round (44th overall) in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft by Toronto.
The Toronto Maple Leafs had quite a scare on Sunday in their 3-2 overtime loss to Atlanta – their only other game sandwiched between their two contests in a five-day span with Pittsburgh – when rookie goaltender James Reimer left the game early in the second period and did not return after getting kneed in the head.

Reimer tried to stay in the game for a couple of minutes, but pulled himself out for precautionary reasons when he felt too woozy to continue. But the Maple Leafs announced at their practice Tuesday that Reimer had suffered whiplash – not a concussion – and will be getting the start in goal against the Penguins on Wednesday, as he is fully recovered and symptom-free.

It’s good news for Toronto, as the red-hot Reimer has been steadfast between the pipes for the Maple Leafs since injuries to Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Jonas Gustavsson thrust him into the No. 1 spot. Reimer, who made his NHL debut on Dec. 20 versus Atlanta, has backstopped his way to a 6-1-3 record since Feb. 3, earning a 2.35 goals-against average and .926 save percentage over that span. He has been the main reason the Maple Leafs have turned their season around to earn themselves a legitimate chance at making the playoffs for the first time since 2004.

The Maple Leafs are gelling and have been playing some of their best hockey of the season as of late despite the departures of defensemen Tomas Kaberle and Francois Beauchemin and forward Kris Versteeg last month. They’ve been surging since the All-Star break – posting an 8-2-4 record for the month of February – and sit in 10th place in the Eastern Conference, just four points out of the eighth and final postseason berth.

While Reimer has been keeping pucks out of the net, Toronto’s top-two lines have been putting them in. All three players on the Maple Leafs’ No. 1 line – Nikolai Kulemin, Clarke MacArthur and Mikhail Grabovski – have been having career years in terms of production. The trio has been Toronto’s most consistent line all year, combining for 65 goals and 138 points. Meanwhile, the line of Joffrey Lupul, Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel has combined for seven goals and 12 points in their past three games, with the red-hot Kessel leading the way. He has seven goals and 11 points in his past seven games. 
  • Pittsburgh has won three consecutive games at the Air Canada Centre, outscoring Toronto by a 15-8 margin. A win Wednesday by the Penguins would give them back-to-back season-series wins over the Maple Leafs for the first time since going 2-0 in 1996-97 and 1997-98.
  • A couple of the Penguins’ newcomers have fared quite well historically against the Leafs. Forward Alex Kovalev has averaged better than a point per game against Toronto during his career with 72 points (28G-44A) in 69 games, while forward James Neal is averaging a goal per game with four tallies and a helper in four career games.
  • The Penguins received good news on the injury front over the weekend as rookie centers Mark Letestu and Dustin Jeffrey each returned to the lineup. Jeffrey returned to action at Carolina Feb. 25 after missing six games due to a lower-body injury, while Letestu returned against Toronto on Feb. 26 after missing 13 games with a lower-body injury. Both players scored against the Maple Leafs, with Letestu adding an assist as well. Pittsburgh is 9-1 when Letestu scores a goal and 16-1 when he records a point. When Jeffrey finds the back of the net the Penguins are a perfect 5-0. They are 7-0 when Jeffrey records a point.
  • Two more injured players will be back on the ice Wednesday when defenseman Paul Martin and forward Tyler Kennedy re-join the lineup. Martin has missed four straight games with an upper-body injury, while Kennedy did not play at Toronto on Feb. 26 due to a lower-body injury. Also close to returning is forward Chris Kunitz, the team’s ‘Mustache Boy’ for the remainder of the regular season. Kunitz participated in his first full-contact practice March 1.
  • The Maple Leafs 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.

 

      
Limit Odd-Man Rushes: Toronto scored twice in a 35-second span on Feb. 26, with their second goal coming off a three-on-one rush. They also had another golden scoring opportunity on a two-on-one break with 8:26 left in the second, with Marc-Andre Fleury making a beautiful glove save to keep the puck out of the cage. While the Penguins defensemen thrive when they activate and join the rush, they’ll need to be careful against a Maple Leafs squad that’s clutch at quick transitions and playing with an extra measure of urgency to their game.

Keep the Pressure On: After taking a 2-0 lead into the final frame on Sunday against the Thrashers, Toronto folded in the third period against an Atlanta squad that outshot them 20-6 in that final 20 minutes to get the eventual 3-2 overtime victory. The Penguins will need to play a full 60 minutes against Toronto on Wednesday.
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 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)
RW Colton Orr, head (indefinitely)
 
 
 
 
G
Crosby (32) Kessel (26)
A
Letang (38) MacArthur (29)
PTS
Crosby (66) MacArthur (48)
PIM
Rupp (111) Orr (128)
+/-
Crosby (+20) Grabovski (+10)
PP
Crosby (10) Kessel (10)
SH
Cooke (3)
Four tied with (1)
W/L
Fleury (28-16-4)
Reimer (10-4-3)
GAA
Johnson (2.26) Reimer (2.31)
SVP
Fleury (.918) Reimer (.929)

Mark Letestu - Letestu made an instant impact in his first game back on Feb. 26 against Toronto after missing 13 straight contests while recovering from knee surgery. The rookie center scored a power-play goal and assisted on Mike Rupp’s game-tying goal to help power the Penguins to a 6-5 shootout win over the Maple Leafs. Letestu skated for 13:59 minutes and threw a season-high seven pucks at the net. He hadn’t thrown more than four shots at a goalie since Oct. 11.
 
Phil Kessel - Kessel hasn’t showed any signs of cooling down since ending his 14-game goalless drought on Feb. 15. Kessel’s performances over the past week got him named the NHL’s ‘First Star’ for the week ending Feb. 27, as he scored the game-winning goal in a 2-1 win over New York Islanders Feb. 22, tied a career-high with four points (2G-2A) in a 5-4 victory over Montreal on Feb. 24, earned two helpers in a 6-5 shootout loss to Pittsburgh on Feb. 26 before notching a beautiful goal off an end-to-end rush against Atlanta. He now has seven goals in his past seven games and 13 points over his last 10 contests.
 
 
 
 

Road Bonding
Penguins Report: 3/1/11
Thiessen Named Reebok/AHL Goaltender of the Month
Penguins Recall Forward Dustin Jeffrey
Hockey Playoffs Come to Robert Morris 
Penguins Report: Trade Deadline 2011 
Penguins Re-Assign Jeffrey, Strait and Vitale 
Notebook: Additions Add Punch 
Aftermath: Penguins 6, Maple Leafs 5 (SO)

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WHEN: March 2, 2011 - 7:00 pm
WHERE: Air Canada Centre
WATCH: FSN
LISTEN: Pens HD Radio, 105.9 FM



SCOUTING REPORT

The Toronto Maple Leafs had quite a scare on Sunday in their 3-2 overtime loss to Atlanta – their only other game sandwiched between their two contests in a five-day span with Pittsburgh – when rookie goaltender James Reimer left the game early in the second period and did not return after getting kneed in the head.

Reimer tried to stay in the game for a couple of minutes, but pulled himself out for precautionary reasons when he felt too woozy to continue. But the Maple Leafs announced at their practice Tuesday that Reimer had suffered whiplash – not a concussion – and will be getting the start in goal against the Penguins on Wednesday, as he is fully recovered and symptom-free.

It's good news for Toronto, as the red-hot Reimer has been steadfast between the pipes for the Maple Leafs since injuries to Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Jonas Gustavsson thrust him into the No. 1 spot. Reimer, who made his NHL debut on Dec. 20 versus Atlanta, has backstopped his way to a 6-1-3 record since Feb. 3, earning a 2.35 goals-against average and .926 save percentage over that span. He has been the main reason the Maple Leafs have turned their season around to earn themselves a legitimate chance at making the playoffs for the first time since 2004.

The Maple Leafs are gelling and have been playing some of their best hockey of the season as of late despite the departures of defensemen Tomas Kaberle and Francois Beauchemin and forward Kris Versteeg last month. They've been surging since the All-Star break – posting an 8-2-4 record for the month of February – and sit in 10th place in the Eastern Conference, just four points out of the eighth and final postseason berth.

While Reimer has been keeping pucks out of the net, Toronto's top-two lines have been putting them in. All three players on the Maple Leafs' No. 1 line – Nikolai Kulemin, Clarke MacArthur and Mikhail Grabovski – have been having career years in terms of production. The trio has been Toronto's most consistent line all year, combining for 65 goals and 138 points. Meanwhile, the line of Joffrey Lupul, Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel has combined for seven goals and 12 points in their past three games, with the red-hot Kessel leading the way. He has seven goals and 11 points in his past seven games.


INTERESTING STATS

* Pittsburgh has won three consecutive games at the Air Canada Centre, outscoring Toronto by a 15-8 margin. A win Wednesday by the Penguins would give them back-to-back season-series wins over the Maple Leafs for the first time since going 2-0 in 1996-97 and 1997-98.

* A couple of the Penguins' newcomers have fared quite well historically against the Leafs. Forward Alex Kovalev has averaged better than a point per game against Toronto during his career with 72 points (28G-44A) in 69 games, while forward James Neal is averaging a goal per game with four tallies and a helper in four career games.

* The Penguins received good news on the injury front over the weekend as rookie centers Mark Letestu and Dustin Jeffrey each returned to the lineup. Jeffrey returned to action at Carolina Feb. 25 after missing six games due to a lower-body injury, while Letestu returned against Toronto on Feb. 26 after missing 13 games with a lower-body injury. Both players scored against the Maple Leafs, with Letestu adding an assist as well. Pittsburgh is 9-1 when Letestu scores a goal and 16-1 when he records a point. When Jeffrey finds the back of the net the Penguins are a perfect 5-0. They are 7-0 when Jeffrey records a point.

* Two more injured players will be back on the ice Wednesday when defenseman Paul Martin and forward Tyler Kennedy re-join the lineup. Martin has missed four straight games with an upper-body injury, while Kennedy did not play at Toronto on Feb. 26 due to a lower-body injury. Also close to returning is forward Chris Kunitz, the team's ‘Mustache Boy' for the remainder of the regular season. Kunitz participated in his first full-contact practice March 1.

* The Maple Leafs 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.


KEYS TO THE GAME

Limit Odd-Man Rushes: Toronto scored twice in a 35-second span on Feb. 26, with their second goal coming off a three-on-one rush. They also had another golden scoring opportunity on a two-on-one break with 8:26 left in the second, with Marc-Andre Fleury making a beautiful glove save to keep the puck out of the cage. While the Penguins defensemen thrive when they activate and join the rush, they'll need to be careful against a Maple Leafs squad that's clutch at quick transitions and playing with an extra measure of urgency to their game.

Keep the Pressure On: After taking a 2-0 lead into the final frame on Sunday against the Thrashers, Toronto folded in the third period against an Atlanta squad that outshot them 20-6 in that final 20 minutes to get the eventual 3-2 overtime victory. The Penguins will need to play a full 60 minutes against Toronto on Wednesday.


WHO'S HOT

Mark Letestu - Letestu made an instant impact in his first game back on Feb. 26 against Toronto after missing 13 straight contests while recovering from knee surgery. The rookie center scored a power-play goal and assisted on Mike Rupp's game-tying goal to help power the Penguins to a 6-5 shootout win over the Maple Leafs. Letestu skated for 13:59 minutes and threw a season-high seven pucks at the net. He hadn't thrown more than four shots at a goalie since Oct. 11.

Phil Kessel - Kessel hasn't showed any signs of cooling down since ending his 14-game goalless drought on Feb. 15. Kessel's performances over the past week got him named the NHL's ‘First Star' for the week ending Feb. 27, as he scored the game-winning goal in a 2-1 win over New York Islanders Feb. 22, tied a career-high with four points (2G-2A) in a 5-4 victory over Montreal on Feb. 24, earned two helpers in a 6-5 shootout loss to Pittsburgh on Feb. 26 before notching a beautiful goal off an end-to-end rush against Atlanta. He now has seven goals in his past seven games and 13 points over his last 10 contests.


Author: Michelle Crechiolo
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