BY: Jeff Schneberk @Game7overtime
Playing hockey games without their top guns is nothing new for Leafs these days. Coming up with ways of winning those games is nothing new either.
The team did just fine while waiting for David Clarkson to return to the lineup following his suspension in the pre-season, they also managed a few wins while Tyler Bozak was out with his lower body injury. They even picked up a couple wins right after the nasty injury suffered by David Bolland in Vancouver on Nov. 2.
Injuries shouldn’t be a problem for this team right? Now they have the challenge of winning a few games without Saturday night’s shootout here, Joffrey Lupul.
Expect the beneficiary to be Peter Holland.
Don’t know how long they can continue to hold the fort though. They are going to have play through another one beginning tonight at the Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh, who is currently 4-5-1 in their last 10 games. Sidney Crosby scored a goal against Boston the other night with .3 seconds left in the game before Boston beat them in OT when Torey Krug scored the first OT goal by a Bruins defenseman. Boston is currently the top team in the Atlantic Division.
The point gap between Leafs and Pens is down to two points so tonight’s game is big.
“We’re going into Pittsburgh (tonight) and there’s no secret who’s there, so we’ve got to be at the top of our game,” Carlyle said. “What we’re looking for from our group is a response, because the response we had from our group [Monday] night wasn’t positive.”
It is going to have to be positive tonight, Pittsburgh packs a 10-3 record on home ice this season.
Who’s hot: After not recording a point in his first eight games, Maple Leafs forward David Clarkson has four in his past six. … Neal, who started the season with one goal over his first six games, has five goals during a four-game point streak.
Injury report: Lupul is not making the trip to Pittsburgh and is expected to miss at least three games. Maple Leafs center Dave Bolland (ankle) remains out indefinitely. … Penguins wing Beau Bennett will miss 8-10 weeks after undergoing hand and wrist surgery this week. Paul Martin (lower body) and Tanner Glass (broken hand) are also out of the lineup. Tomas Vokoun (blood clot in hip), Rob Scuderi (ankle) and Chuck Kobasew (lower body) are on injured reserve.
Stats: Toronto’s penalty kill this year, and their power play efficiency are right in line with Pittsburgh’s going into tonight’s contest. All numbers are between 2.46 – 2.82. The Maple Leafs’ shots-allowed-per-game continue to be an area to improve upon, allowing nine shots more per game, than shots they take.
Points: Crosby continues to lead the Pens in the points category with 13 goals and 18 assists through 25 games. Evgeni Malkin is next with four goals and 23 assists for 27 points.
Phil Kessel continues to lead Toronto with 21 points through 24 games (12 goals, nine assists), Mason Raymond is next in line with 17 points in 24 games, with eight goals and nine assists and James van Riemsdyk is one point behind Raymond with nine goals and seven assists.
Goaltenders James Reimer and Jonathan Bernier both sport a save percentage of .934 while Pittsburgh’s duo of MA Fleury and J Zattkoff are around .900.
Last 10: Toronto 4-5-1; Pittsburgh 4-5-1
Tonight’s matchup will be the second meeting of the season between Toronto and Pittsburgh. The first game resulted in a 4-1 Leaf win on Oct. 26.