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Game Day Preview

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
GAME: Toronto Maple Leafs (21-15-4-1) at Pittsburgh Penguins (17-16-3-5).

TIME: Thursday, 7:30 p.m. EST.

The Pittsburgh Penguins will be without NHL leading scorer Mario Lemieux and top goaltender Johan Hedberg when they conclude their season series with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Lemieux was injured in the second period of the Penguins' 6-3 loss to the Islanders on Tuesday when he fell in New York's zone.

"I just felt a little pop," he said. "It's just a strain, but I won't know until I get up tomorrow and see how it feels and really go from there.

With groins, you never know." Lemieux came back on the ice, but didn't stay out there for long.

"I wanted to try it right away," he said. "Right off the faceoff I tried to take a couple of strides and I just couldn't go." Hedberg is out indefinitely with a fractured collarbone, and Jean-Sebastien Aubin has taken over the starting job with AHL call-up Sebastien Caron serving as his backup.

Domi is one of the hottest Leafs right now.
Graig Abel Photography
Defenseman Dick Tarnstrom and forward Jan Hrdina also missed Tuesday's game with injuries.

The loss was Pittsburgh's 13th in its last 19 games, but defenseman Marc Bergevin said the Penguins' many injury problems this season are no excuse for the team's poor play.

"That's embarrassing if that's the case," he said. "This was an important game for us and we just didn't show up." Toronto continued its strong play on Tuesday, beating the Boston Bruins 5-2 to extend their home unbeaten streak to 12 games.

The Leafs have won two straight and have lost just once in their last 10 (6-1-2-1). Toronto is now tied with Boston for second place in the Northeast Division after trailing the Bruins by 16 points on Nov. 30.

"We knew we were playing under our level of capability, and they were probably a little bit over theirs and that's why they built such a good lead," Maple Leafs coach Pat Quinn said. "Now we are probably closer to who we really are."

STANDINGS (through Jan. 7):
Maple Leafs - 47 points, 2nd place (tied), 9 PB, Northeast Division.
Penguins - 42 points, 3rd place (tied), 9 PB, Atlantic Division.

Maple Leafs - Mats Sundin, 18 goals; Alexander Mogilny, 27 assists and 44 points; Tie Domi, 74 PIM.
Penguins - Lemieux, 20 goals, 48 assists and 68 points; Steve McKenna, 46 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Jan. 7):
Maple Leafs - Power play: 20.1 percent (38 for 189), 5th in NHL. Penalty killing: 86.7 percent (183 for 211), 4th.
Penguins - Power play: 26.9 percent (50 for 186), 1st. Penalty killing: 82.9 percent (155 for 187), 17th.

Maple Leafs - Ed Belfour (19-11-3, 5 SO, 1.98 GAA); Trevor Kidd (2-5-1, 3.74).
Penguins - Aubin (5-11-0, 1, 3.02); Caron (no appearances).

SEASON SERIES: Maple Leafs, 2-1.

LAST MEETING: Dec. 10; Maple Leafs, 4-2. At Toronto, Lemieux became the fastest NHL player to reach 50 points in a season since 1995-96, but it wasn't enough as Sundin scored twice to lead the Leafs.

Maple Leafs - 6-8-2-1 on the road
Penguins - 11-6-1-2 at home.
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