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Leafs Take On Red-Hot Penguins

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs

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MAPLE LEAFS (10-12-4) at PENGUINS (19-8-2)

TV -- TSN (HD), RDS, FS-P (HD)

Last 10 --
Toronto 5-4-1; Pittsburgh 10-0-0

Season series -- This is the second meeting between the clubs this season. Toronto beat Pittsburgh, 4-3, on Oct. 13 at Consol Energy Center. 

Big Story -- Sidney Crosby is the biggest story in the NHL, and he has been for a while. The Penguins' captain is on a 16-game points streak during which he has 18 goals and 15 assists. He is starting to run away from the pack in the Art Ross Trophy race as he now has 48 points, eight more than the slumping Steven Stamkos. Crosby also leads Stamkos in the Rocket Richard Trophy race with 24 goals, three more than the Lightning sniper. Only Henrik Sedin has more assists than Crosby (27-24).

Team Scope:

Maple Leafs --
A dramatic come-from-behind shootout win in Washington, Toronto's second straight come-from-behind shootout win, has the Leafs feeling good heading into Pittsburgh. They erased a 4-1 deficit in the final 20 minutes and Mikhail Grabovski scored the shootout winner against Michal Neuvirth to give the Leafs a 5-4 win. It was also the second straight game they scored the tying goal in the final two minutes of regulation. Kris Versteeg scored with 42 seconds left against Boston on Saturday and then Phil Kessel won it for the Leafs in the shootout. Clarke MacArthur scored with 1:24 left in Monday's game. It was MacArthur's second goal of the game and ninth of the season.

"It's two small steps in the right direction,'' goalie Jonas Gustavsson said after making 32 saves Monday night. "It shows a lot of character coming back in games, working hard, no matter what the scoreboard (says)."

Penguins -- The Penguins have streaked right to the top of the NHL standings with 10 wins in a row. Crosby, as we already mentioned, is simply on fire. He's also been great for his linemates, Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis, who have combined for 30 points this season. Marc-Andre Fleury has completely erased his negative start by playing fantastic goal in the last month. His goals-against average is all the way down to 2.35 now. It was well over 3.00 after the first month of the season. He's on a personal nine-game winning streak and he's 11-0-1 in his last 12 games. Evgeni Malkin's status for Wednesday's game is in doubt. He's day-to-day with a knee injury and has missed the last two games. 

"On a winning streak you sometimes ignore the things you do wrong, but we've done a good job going through video and stuff like that to focus on the mistakes we're making and always knowing that we can play a lot better than we've played," defenseman Brooks Orpik told reporters Tuesday. "Obviously when you're on a 10-game winning streak you don't want to change too much, but there's definitely some detailed stuff that can be a little bit better. I don't think anyone's getting too complacent because there's always room to get better."

Who's Hot -- Crosby. Enough said.

Injury Report -- The Leafs are still without captain Dion Phaneuf, but he is skating with the team in practices and morning skates as he works his way back from a leg laceration. Phaneuf could return to the lineup late next week. 

Stat Pack -- The Leafs' win in Pittsburgh last month was their fourth straight to start the season. It was Pittsburgh's third loss in its first four games. Since, Toronto is 6-12-4 while the Penguins are 18-5-2. … Toronto has won three of its last four games in Pittsburgh dating back to Dec. 20, 2008.

Puck Drop -- When the season began Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma put his newest defensemen, Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek, with veteran Penguins in an effort to pair them with a guy who had experience operating within the team's system. However, since Michalek returned from a shoulder injury on Nov. 3 they've been paired together and the Penguins are 13-3-1.

It's not a coincidence.

"Pairing them together is almost like we have two shutdown pairs now," Bylsma said Tuesday. "They fit together real well, with the defensive style where Martin carries the puck and holds on to the puck a little bit more. And Kris Letang and has that same aspect in the pairing with Brooks Orpik. Sometimes it's a work in progress with them playing together, but it's worked well for both of them. They have settled in and they are a big part of us playing better defensively."

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