The Leafs play in Pittsburgh on Thursday and face a Penguins squad that more resembles its farm team in Wilkes-Barre than the high-scoring NHL club it would be if healthy.
The Penguins have been hit hard with injuries over the last week. Star centre Mario Lemieux underwent hip surgery on Monday and will miss three to four weeks. Martin Straka broke his leg in a game Sunday night against Florida and is expected to miss the next three to six months. Also, Alexei Kovalev had knee surgery on October 16 and hasn't been cleared to skate as of yet.
Meanwhile, the Leafs come into Pittsburgh looking for their third straight win. The team has played terrific defensive hockey over the last four games. Committed to a more tight-checking game, Toronto has only allowed four goals in its last four games.
Leafs goalie Curtis Joseph has been brilliant as of late. He's had back-to-back shutouts and against Tampa Bay on Tuesday, stopped Vincent Lecavalier on a penalty shot late in the third period to preserve a 3-2 win. In his last meeting against Pittsburgh on Saturday, Joseph made 23 saves to earn his 34th career shutout and first of the year.
While he won't play in Thursday's game, defenceman Tomas Kaberle signed a multi-year deal with the Leafs to the delight of his teammates. Kaberle missed all of training camp and will sit out the first 13 games, including Thursday's encounter in the Steel City, but is excited about returning to the team.
Kaberle is expected to undego his medical Thursday and practice with the team on Friday. If all goes well, Kaberle could see action when the Leafs host the Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche on Saturday night.
While Lemieux predicted that the Penguins wouldn't finish in last place this year, it's difficult not to imagine this team near the bottom of the standings at this time. Pittsburgh has lost its top three scorers from last season and were shut out in Philadelphia 3-0 on Wednesday night.