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Penguins-Maple Leafs Preview

Friday, 10.28.2011 / 10:39 PM

Sergei J. Feldman - NHL.com Staff Writer

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Penguins-Maple Leafs Preview
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

Despite a lengthy list of injuries, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Toronto Maple Leafs are playing well.

The Penguins look to win their sixth straight and hand the Maple Leafs their first regulation home loss Saturday night.

Despite a busy start to the season - a league-high 12 games in three weeks - Pittsburgh (8-2-2) has been undeterred by injuries. Evgeni Malkin has missed seven games with discomfort in his knee, Sidney Crosby remains out due to a concussion and Zbynek Michalek is expected to be sidelined at least a few more weeks after breaking a finger last Saturday.

Still, the Penguins won their fifth in a row with a 3-2 shootout victory over the New York Islanders on Thursday. Chris Kunitz and James Neal scored 2:46 apart early in the third period to tie the game, then Malkin recorded the only goal of the shootout.

Malkin improved to 2 for 2 this season in shootouts despite entering the campaign 8 for 30 lifetime.

"He's got great moves in practice that he shows off," coach Dan Bylsma said. "I think it's him having a little more swagger, trying some of the moves he does have. He's done it a couple times this year. Tonight was just outstanding."

While Malkin gets stronger, something that should be helped with the team's schedule lightening considerably over the next two weeks, Neal continues to step up. He has four goals in the last five games and nine this season to tie Toronto's Phil Kessel for the league lead.

The Penguins also haven't missed a beat with their penalty-killing unit despite Michalek's injury. They have killed off their opponents' last 20 power plays and 36 of 37 this season, but continuing that dominance could be tough Saturday. Pittsburgh announced Saturday morning it will be without center Jordan Staal, the team's top penalty killer, due to a lower-body injury.

Staal was in the box during the lone penalty the Penguins failed to kill.

The Maple Leafs (6-2-1) have had to overcome some key injuries as well but have managed to go 4-0-1 at the Air Canada Centre, joining Washington as the only Eastern Conference teams yet to lose at home in regulation.

Offseason acquisition Tim Connolly made his season debut Thursday after sitting out with an upper body injury while Tyler Bozak returned after a two-game absence with a sore foot. Goaltender James Reimer has missed the last two games and was placed on injured reserve with whiplash after being forced out of last Saturday's win at Montreal.

Bozak had an assist while Connolly joined Kessel's line in a 4-2 win over the New York Rangers on Thursday in the finale of a four-game road trip.

"We're evolving as a team and learning to play together," coach Ron Wilson said. "Considering the people that have been missing from our lineup, to be 6-2-1, we're very happy with that."

Jonas Gustavsson started a second straight game Thursday in place of Reimer, who is eligible to returned Sunday. Gustavsson had his best performance of the season with 28 saves, including 15 in the first period.

"The more you play, the more comfortable you get," said Gustavsson, who has made four straight appearances.

He led one of the best defensive efforts of the season for the Leafs, who had given up 14 goals in the previous three games and rank near the bottom of the league with 3.22 allowed per game. Toronto held New York scoreless in three power-play chances after its previous five opponents went 7 for 20.

These teams split four games last season, though Pittsburgh is 3-0-1 in its last four visits to Toronto.

Kessel has five goals and six assists in his last 11 games against the Penguins.

2011-2012 season series
DateScoreW. Goal
Mar 07 '12TOR 2 at PIT 3P. Dupuis
Feb 01 '12PIT 0 at TOR 1C. MacArthur
Jan 31 '12TOR 4 at PIT 5 - SOE. Malkin
Oct 29 '11PIT 3 at TOR 4P. Kessel
PlayerGPGAP+/-PIMPPGW
J. Neal139211-4631
K. Letang1111011+5810
J. Staal12639+3820
P. Dupuis13369+3601
M. Cooke13448+4410
C. Kunitz13437+1221
E. Malkin6257-21221
R. Park11246+2601
M. Niskanen13134+4610
A. Asham12134+0700
J. Vitale13123+1201
Z. Michalek10123-5600
T. Kennedy6123+0200
S. Sullivan13033-2400
P. Martin13033-4400
C. Adams13112-4000
D. Engelland13022+11100
B. Lovejoy12011+11100
M. Letestu9011-4200
B. Orpik5011+1400
D. Jeffrey5000+0000
S. MacIntyre4000+0200
B. Strait1000+0000
GoalieGPRec.GASAGAASv%
M. Fleury97-2-0172561.86.934
B. Johnson41-1-2101092.44.908
PlayerGPGAP+/-PIMPPGW
P. Kessel1010818+6413
J. Lupul105611+51620
D. Phaneuf102911+7610
J. Liles10077+0200
M. Grabovski10426+1621
T. Bozak8055+3400
M. Lombardi10224-1201
C. MacArthur7224+2201
D. Steckel10303-2410
N. Kulemin10213-1000
M. Brown10123+32100
C. Gunnarsson10033+4200
L. Schenn10033+11700
J. Gardiner8033-2200
T. Connolly2112+1210
M. Komisarek9022+21400
C. Orr2101+1500
M. Frattin10011-1600
N. Kadri3011+0200
C. Franson3011-4000
P. Dupuis9000-1400
C. Armstrong5000-3200
J. Rosehill4000-1000
GoalieGPRec.GASAGAASv%
J. Reimer64-0-1141592.58.912
J. Gustavsson53-2-0181583.86.886