NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Tuesday, January 31st (All times Eastern)
Toronto Maple Leafs (25-19-5) at Pittsburgh Penguins (28-17-4), 7 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The Pittsburgh Penguins will try to pick up where they left off before the All-Star break, as they shoot for an eighth straight victory tonight in the opener of a home-and-home series against the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Penguins were the hottest team in the NHL heading into the All-Star break and posted a 3-2 shootout decision last Tuesday in St. Louis for their seventh straight victory. The hot streak is the longest for Pittsburgh since a 12-game winning streak last season and it comes on the heels of a six-game slide from Dec. 29-Jan. 11.
The last three victories in Pittsburgh's winning streak have come after regulation and Chris Kunitz posted the game-winner in the shootout victory over the Blues.
Penguins superstar Evgeni Malkin has been a big reason for Pittsburgh's hot streak, but he had a six-game point streak snapped by the Blues. Malkin leads the NHL with 58 points and he had nine goals and four assists over six games before going without a point last Tuesday.
Malkin posted a goal and assist in Sunday's All-Star Game in Ottawa, helping Team Chara post a 12-9 victory over Team Alfredsson. Pittsburgh forward James Neal and defenseman Kris Letang each added an assist for Team Alfredsson.
"It's a lot of fun," Neal said of his first All-Star Game experience. "It was an honor to be here and something that I couldn't pass up. Overall, it was a great weekend."
Pittsburgh, which is tied with Ottawa for fifth place in the Eastern Conference, is still without captain Sidney Crosby, who has been sidelined since Dec. 5 with a concussion.
On Saturday, the team announced that Crosby was also diagnosed with a neck injury after he visited Dr. Robert S. Bray, a neurological spine specialist based in Los Angeles. Bray said that the neck injury is fully healed, but there is still no timetable for Crosby's return to the ice.
Penguins forward Jordan Staal is also still out with a sprained MCL in his left knee.
Pittsburgh has won its last three games on home ice and is 14-7-2 as the host this season. Tomorrow's game in Toronto will begin a four-game road trip.
The Maple Leafs entered the break with wins in two straight and three of their last four games. Toronto is also tied with Florida and New Jersey for the seventh seed in the East and the Leafs are five points in back of Pittsburgh and Ottawa.
This marks the second straight home-and-home set for Toronto, which swept the Islanders last week. The Leafs posted a 3-0 win in the home portion on Monday and on the following night Clarke MacArthur scored two goals, including the OT game-winner, in a 4-3 victory on Long Island.
Three Maple Leafs skated with Malkin for Team Chara in Sunday's All-Star Game. Joffrey Lupul posted two goals and Phil Kessel added a goal and two assists for Team Chara. Toronto defenseman Dion Phaneuf was a minus-three for the victors.
Toronto is 11-11-1 as the visiting team this year and had lost four straight as the guest before beating the Islanders last Tuesday.
The Maple Leafs posted a 4-3 regulation win over the visiting Penguins back on Oct. 29 and Toronto has claimed two straight and three of the last five meetings in this series. Pittsburgh has taken two of the last three matchups in the Steel City.
01/31 10:43:22 ET