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At the Rink: Penguins at Maple Leafs

by Mike Brophy

TORONTO -- Nazem Kadri will be doing double duty Saturday night.

Not only will the Toronto Maple Leafs second-line center be trying to add to the goal he scored in the season-opening 4-3 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday, he'll also be trying to throw superstar Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins off his game.

As skilled an offensive player as Kadri is, he is also an agitator who likes to get under the skin of his opponents. Last season, after Kadri rubbed him the wrong way, Crosby commented to Toronto captain Dion Phaneuf, "Kadri is a (bleeping) joke!" The conversation was captured on HBO's documentary "24/7."

Kadri said he took Crosby's words as a compliment and admitted it brings him pleasure to upset members of the opposition.

"I'm going to play my style, which is controlling the puck and try to challenge (Crosby) physically," Kadri said. "He's a little bit bigger than me, but that really doesn't matter. I'll get in his face a little bit and take away his time and space."

When you are considered the best player in the world, as Crosby is, it is not unusual for opponents to try to get into your kitchen. There really isn't much Crosby hasn't heard before, and his reputation is such that he gives as well as he receives. Asked if he expects to be chirped by Kadri tonight, Crosby said, "It's hard to predict that. I don't usually go into a game thinking about things that are going to be said to me on the ice."

Crosby said a bigger concern is the defensive pairing he'll face, and that will likely be Phaneuf and Stephane Robidas. Phaneuf and Crosby have a history of physical confrontations.

Toronto coach Randy Carlyle said he basically lets his players do their own thing on the ice within the confines of the game plan and doesn't encourage or discourage trash talking.

"You let players be themselves," Carlyle said. "Obviously there are players that are very good at (chirping) and there are players who push it a little over the top at times. I don't see Nazem as one of those guys. He's just one of those guys that does a lot of talking on the ice."

The Maple Leafs are looking for Kadri to take his game to the next level this season. The 24-year-old London, Ontario native was the No. 7 pick in the 2009 NHL Draft and was third on the Maple Leafs in scoring last season with 20 goals and 50 points in 78 games.

Here are the projected lineups:


Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Patric Hornqvist

Pascal Dupuis - Brandon Sutter - Evgeni Malkin

Blake Comeau - Marcel Goc - Steve Downie

Zach Sill - Nick Spaling - Craig Adams

Olli Maatta - Paul Martin

Christian Ehrhoff - Kris Letang

Rob Scuderi - Simon Despres

Marc-Andre Fleury

Thomas Greiss

Scratched: Robert Bortuzzo, Scott Harrington, Beau Bennett


James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel

Joffrey Lupul - Nazem Kadri - Brandon Kozun

Leo Komarov - Mike Santorelli - David Clarkson

Daniel Winnik - Peter Holland - Richard Panik

Dion Phaneuf - Stephane Robidas

Cody Franson - Roman Polak

Jake Gardiner - Morgan Rielly

Jonathan Bernier

James Reimer

Scratched: Matt Frattin, Stuart Percy

Status report: The Penguins are not expected to make any changes to the lineup that defeated the Anaheim Ducks 6-4 opening night. Maatta hurt his knee Thursday, but finished the game and accumulated three assists. Malkin, normally a center, will continue to play right wing on a line with Sutter and Dupuis. Panik draws into the lineup after being picked up on waivers from the Tampa Bay Lightning and will play on a line with Holland with whom he played junior hockey in Guelph. Franson is expected to play after missing the season opener with a knee injury.

Who's hot: Dupuis had a wonderful opening night in Pittsburgh's 6-4 win against Anaheim, scoring a goal and adding three assists. Crosby chipped in two goals and one assist. Newcomer Polak led all Maple Leafs with seven hits against Montreal on Wednesday.

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