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Pens aim for 3-0 start, face Leafs in home opener

by Eric Goodman

MAPLE LEAFS (1-1-0) at PENGUINS (2-0-0)


Season series: This is the first of three games between the Eastern Conference clubs. They split the four-game series last season with each team going undefeated on their respective home ice.

Big story: The Penguins return to Pittsburgh for their home opener Wednesday, where they seek their first season-opening three-game winning streak since they won seven straight to start the 1994-95 season.

Team Scope:

Maple Leafs: Toronto will look to bounce back from Monday's home-opening defeat to the Sabres. If the Leafs are going to challenge the upstart Pens, then they will need to fair much better with the man advantage. Toronto was just 1-for-7 on the power play against Buffalo, including an 0-for-2 showing with the two-man advantage.

"I didn't think there was any lack of effort with our group," coach Randy Carlyle told the Canadian Press Monday. "I thought we were out of sorts in the first period and it showed in the execution of our power play."

Penguins: If the 2012-13 short season is being considered a sprint, then the Pens are looking like the Usain Bolt of the hockey world at the moment. With a solid 3-1 opening-night road victory against the rival Flyers, followed by Sunday's convincing 6-3 win at the New York Rangers, Pittsburgh appears to be the early frontrunner for the Atlantic Division crown.

The team will have a distinct advantage if it gets power-play opportunities Wednesday as it has clicked on four of eight chances so far.

"We're off to a good start," forward James Neal told after notching two goals at New York on Sunday. "It's a shortened season, so it's huge to come out of the gates fast. It's two good tests for us in Philly and New York. We did a job in both buildings and it feels good in our room."

Who's hot: Center Nazem Kadri has two power-play goals to open the season for the Leafs. … For the Pens, Evgeni Malkin has assists on four of his team's nine goals this season.

Injury report: The Leafs activated defenseman Jake Gardiner, who hasn't played since suffering a concussion on Dec. 8 while playing in the AHL. He's expected to be in the lineup. … The Penguins report no injuries.

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