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Maple Leafs-Penguins Preview @NHLdotcom
Maple Leafs-Penguins Preview

GAME: Toronto Maple Leafs (19-14-3) at Pittsburgh Penguins (8-19-7).

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

Sidney Crosby looks to build on a strong effort and help the last-place Penguins give new coach Michel Therrien his first win as they host the short-handed Toronto Maple Leafs.

Crosby, a surprising omission from the Canadian Olympic team, scored two early third-period goals to give the Penguins the lead Friday, but they could not protect the lead in a 5-4 defeat to the Philadelphia Flyers.

Therrien is 0-3 since coach Eddie Olczyk was fired Dec. 15, and the Penguins have lost 11 of their last 12 overall.

The 18-year-old rookie, who also assisted on the Penguins' first goal, insisted he was not sending a message to the national team executives for bypassing him.

"Honestly, it wasn't on my mind," said Crosby, who has three goals, two assists and a plus-4 rating in three games under Therrien.

Instead, Crosby said he and the team are playing with a new vigor under Therrien, who spent a six-day schedule break installing a new system that emphasizes discipline and tight defense.

"We're trying to improve and you're seeing a focus in everyone right now," said Crosby. "We have good energy and we're all battling."

The Penguins, who have an Eastern Conference-low 23 points, continued to struggle with defense and discipline. Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury settled down after allowing three soft goals early Friday, only to give up two more in the final minutes.

Pittsburgh also conceded two power-play goals and have allowed seven in 25 chances in three games under Therrien.

Bryan McCabe and Mats Sundin scored to lead Toronto to a 2-1 win Monday over the New Jersey Devils.

Ed Belfour stopped 33 shots for the Maple Leafs, who have won three of four and posted back-to-back wins for the first time since Nov. 26-28.

"That was a great win," Belfour said. "It feels like things are getting back on track."

However, Toronto lost another player to injury as Jason Allison fractured his finger. The Leafs played Monday without forwards Eric Lindros (wrist), Nik Antropov (knee) and Alexander Steen (thumb).

They may also be without forward Darcy Tucker, who got a 5-minute match penalty for ripping the helmet off Devils Cam Janssen in a fight and twice hitting him in the face with it. NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell will review the incident before deciding Tucker's punishment.

"It was in the heat of the moment," Tucker said after the game. "I didn't really know what the penalty was for until I got to the dressing room.

"It was one of those things that happens in a game. Hopefully they will consider that."

The Leafs recalled forward John Pohl from the AHL's Toronto Marlies. In 30 games with the Marlies, Pohl has a team-high 19 goals and 15 assists.

STANDINGS (through Dec. 26): Maple Leafs - 41 points, 3rd place, 12 PB, Northeast Division. Penguins - 23 points, 5th place, 26 PB, Atlantic Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Maple Leafs - Tucker, 15 goals; McCabe, 30 assists, 43 points and 52 PIM. Penguins - Crosby, 16 goals and 36 points; Crosby and Zigmund Palffy, 20 assists; Brooks Orpik, 61 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Dec. 26): Maple Leafs - Power play: 20.7 percent (49 for 237), 5th in NHL. Penalty killing: 81 percent (187 for 231), 23rd. Penguins - Power play: 15.2 percent (33 for 217), tied for 22nd. Penalty killing: 79.1 percent (185 for 234), 28th.

GOALTENDERS: Maple Leafs - Belfour (15-11-2, 0 SO, 3.28 GAA); Mikael Tellqvist (4-3-1, 1, 2.54). Penguins - Jocelyn Thibault (1-9-2, 4.41); Fleury (2-7-2, 3.22).

2003-04 SEASON SERIES: Maple Leafs, 3-1-0.

LAST MEETING: March 11, 2004; Penguins, 3-2. At Toronto, Ric Jackman, Rico Fata and Aleksey Morozov scored for the Penguins against former Toronto backup Trevor Kidd.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Maple Leafs - 6-7-2 on the road; Penguins - 4-9-4 at home.

Associated Press
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