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
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
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
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
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
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