March 11, 2004
GAME: Pittsburgh Penguins (16-44-6-4) at Toronto Maple Leafs (38-20-9-3).
TIME: Thursday, 7:30 p.m. EST., Rogers Sportsnet -- Regional
There's little doubt that the Toronto Maple Leafs got better and deeper at Tuesday's trade deadline. They also managed to get older.
Ron Francis, one of several deadline acquisitions for the Maple Leafs, is expected to play his first game for Toronto when the league's oldest team faces one of the youngest - the Pittsburgh Penguins.
For the second consecutive season, Toronto added several veterans at the deadline.
Besides Francis, the fourth-leading scorer in NHL history, the Leafs also picked up center Chad Kilger and lured defenseman Calle Johansson out of retirement. Those moves came after defenseman Brian Leetch was acquired from the New York Rangers on March 3.
The additions of Leetch, Francis and Johansson give Toronto 17 players who are 30 or older. Francis, who turned 41 on March 1, is the older player on the team. He is one of nine players on the current roster that have been captains in the NHL, including current leader Mats Sundin.
"I think it's an opportunity, if this is going to be the end of my career, to finish it in a different way," said Francis, who waived his no-trade clause to go to Toronto. "I would be kicking myself for the next 50 years if I didn't take the chance."
Left wing Gary Roberts, 37, knows remaining healthy will be one of the biggest issues for his team.
"I'm not one of the old guys anymore," Roberts said. "If you're 35 on our team, you're still young. We've been kidding around about that. There's no doubt we are an older group, but I think there is a lot of legs left in the old guys."
Ed Belfour, who turns 39 next month, needed to make just 15 saves for his 72nd career shutout, and Roberts scored twice to lead Toronto to a 5-0 victory over visiting Florida on Tuesday.
The win was the fourth in five games for the Leafs, who moved into a tie with Ottawa for first in the Northeast Division. Toronto is battling Ottawa, Philadelphia and Tampa Bay for the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Leafs have outscored the Penguins 17-6 in winning all three meetings this season. Toronto has taken the last five matchups.
Pittsburgh recorded its most impressive win of the season Tuesday, 4-0 over Dallas, which had been unbeaten in nine straight.
Jean-Sebastien Aubin stopped a career-high 45 shots and Matt Bradley and Aleksey Morozov scored second-period goals, leading the Penguins to their third straight win.
"He (Aubin) was outstanding," Pittsburgh's Mike Eastwood said. "What can you say? He won the game for us. Every time we needed him, he came up huge."
Pittsburgh owns the league's worst record, but is 5-2-1 following an 18-game winless streak (0-17-0-1).
The Penguins will be seeking their first four-game win streak since a six-game run from Jan. 17-26, 2002.
STANDINGS: Penguins - 42 points, 5th place, 48 PB, Atlantic Division. Maple Leafs - 88 points, 1st place (tied), Northeast Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Penguins - Ryan Malone, 21 goals; Dick Tarnstrom, 29 assists and 42 points; Brooks Orpik, 115 PIM. Maple Leafs - Sundin, 26 goals, 40 assists and 66 points; Tie Domi, 196 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS (through March 10): Penguins - Power play: 15.8 percent (49 for 311), 17th in NHL. Penalty killing: 75.6 percent (239 for 316), 30th. Maple Leafs - Power play: 19.9 percent (65 for 327), 5th. Penalty killing: 84.4 percent (275 for 326), 13th.
GOALTENDERS: Penguins - Aubin (4-8-0, 1 SO, 3.06 GAA); Sebastien Caron (5-22-3, 1, 3.92). Maple Leafs - Belfour (28-16-5, 7, 2.13); Trevor Kidd (5-4-2, 1, 3.15).
SEASON SERIES: Maple Leafs, 3-0.
LAST MEETING: Feb. 16; Maple Leafs, 8-4. At Pittsburgh, Owen Nolan scored two of his team's four power-play goals and added two assists as Toronto handed Pittsburgh its NHL-record 12th straight home loss.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Penguins - 7-22-2-4 on the road; Maple Leafs - 20-11-2-2 at home.
-- Associated Press