Toronto Maple Leafs Game Preview: Crosby and the Penguins Headline Friday Night


Toronto Maple Leafs Game Preview: Crosby & the Penguins Headline Friday Night

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We have all waited patiently and now it is time to drop the puck on a new season for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Here at Tip of the Tower we strive to give you as much content on your Toronto sports teams as humanly possible. This series will preview every single Toronto Maple Leafs game and what you should know for the game that night.

Pittsburgh Penguins (10-3-1) @ Toronto Maple Leafs (9-5-2): 7:30 p.m. on TSN.

The Leafs were 1-1-1 last season against the Penguins and 0-1-0 this season.

Leafs Injury Report

Brandon Kozun is out with a high ankle sprain.

David Booth is out with a broken foot.

Joffrey Lupul is out with a broken hand.

Daniel Winnik is unlikely to play as a result of an upper body injury

Projected Line Combinations (Leafs)

Penguins Injury Report

Olli Maatta is out with a neck injury.

Projected Line Combinations (Penguins)

Game Preview

Dec 16, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Phil Kessel (81) moves the puck up ice against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the second period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Penguins won 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

For the second time this season, the Toronto Maple Leafs welcome the high-octane Pittsburgh Penguins to the Air Canada Centre. After a 5-2 thrashing earlier this season, the Leafs will be out to avenge the early season embarrassment they suffered at the hands of the Penguins.

Entering tonight’s game, the Leafs are actually playing very well. The team has won three games in a row, seven of their last 10 games, and have lost by more than one goal only once since October 17.

Not bad numbers for a team that many of us Torontonian’s deem as inconsistent.

However, prior to Tuesday’s 5-0 beat down in Madison Square Garden, the Penguins were playing very well too. Entering Tuesday night, the Penguins had ripped off seven consecutive victories, outscoring their opponents 33-8 over the seven game span.

To the surprise of few, Sidney Crosby has led the charge for the Penguins, racking up 15 points (3 goals, 12 assists) over the team’s last eight games. Given Crosby’s career point total of 46 points (21 goals, 25 assists) against Toronto, keeping Sid the Kid in check tonight will be a tall task for the Leafs.

But after dismantling the Boston Bruins 6-1 at home on Wednesday night, the Leafs confidence will be very high. Although top players Phil Kessel, James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak garner most of the attention, the Leafs depth has been an integral part of their recent success. The combination of heart-and-soul players like Leo Komarov, and up-and-comer’s like Peter Holland have been a promising development for the Leafs.

Going up against a very talented Penguins offence, the bottom-six players will have to once again contribute for the Leafs. If the bottom-six can consistently contribute tonight, the Leafs chances of victory should only increase.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Phil Kessel career vs PIT: 30 GP – 11 goals – 13 assist – 24 PTS

James Van Riemsdyk career vs PIT: 21 GP – 7 goals – 8 assists – 15 PTS

Nazem Kadri career vs PIT: 9 GP – 2 goal – 1 assist – 3 PTS

Doin Phaneuf career vs PIT: 19 GP – 1 goals – 12 assists – 13 PTS

James Reimer career vs PIT: 6 GP – Record: 4-0-2 – 2.27 GAA – .931 SV%

Jonathan Bernier career vs PIT: 3 GP – Record: 0-2-1 – 3.91 GAA – .899 SV%

Pittsburgh Penguins

Sidney Crosby career vs TOR: 29 GP- 21 goals – 25 assists – 46 PTS

Evgeni Malkin career vs TOR: 25 GP- 13 goals – 34 assists – 46 PTS

Chris Kunitz career vs TOR: 19 GP- 4 goals – 9 assists – 13 PTS

Kris Letang career vs TOR: 23 GP- 2 goals – 14 assists – 16 PTS

Marc-Andre Fleury career vs TOR: 29 GP – Record: 15-9-3 – 3.10 GAA – .892 SV%

Keys to Victory for Toronto

Nov 27, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin (71) is congratulated by center Sidney Crosby (87) and left wing Chris Kunitz (right) after Malkin scored a goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs during the third period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Penguins won 6-5 in a shootout. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

– The Leafs must stay out of the penalty box tonight. The Penguins power play is converting at a ridiculous 35.6 percent this season. To put that in perspective, the Penguins have scored 21 of their 54 total goals on the power play this year. Needless to say, their power play is lethal.

But, on the contrary, keep the Penguins off the power play and you have a great chance against them as they have only outscored their opponents 32 to 25.

– The Leafs must challenge the Penguins top six tonight. Whether it be playing physical in the neutral zone, pinning them on long shifts in their own end, or just playing pesky hockey, the Leafs must find a way to slow down the Penguins top six forwards. Slowing down all-world talents like Crosby and Malkin is no easy task, but if you can keep them on the ice in even strength situations, you have a much better chance against them.

– Win the bottom-six battle. The Leafs have been getting fantastic play from their bottom six recently. Fan favourite Komarov has sparked the play of the third and fourth line, as his gritty style of play has rubbed off on his line mates – Holland and Mike Santorelli. That trio will be key tonight. If they can play a physical game against the Penguins defence and extend shifts in the Pittsburgh zone, the Leafs top-six forwards should benefit from it. Although much of the Leafs’ bottom-six players work does not appear on the box score, it is very valuable work that helps over the course of a 60-minute game.

What is your prediction for tonight’s game? Should the Leafs stick with the same lines as last game? Let us know in the comments section below.