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Pens open second half against Leafs

by Eric Goodman
MAPLE LEAFS (25-19-5) at PENGUINS (28-17-4)


Last 10: Toronto 6-4-0; Pittsburgh 7-3-0.

Season series: This is the second of four meetings. The Leafs took a back-and-forth affair from the Pens on Oct. 29 as Phil Kessel's two goals led his team to a 4-3 victory.

Big Story: On Saturday night, the Penguins shed more light on Sidney Crosby's injury when the team released an official statement via Twitter revealing that Los Angeles' Dr. Robert S. Bray discovered that their captain suffered a neck injury in addition to a concussion, which has sidelined their superstar since Dec. 5. Crosby was back on the ice Monday, skating with his injured teammates prior to the Penguins' full practice, but there is still no set date for his return. But even without Sid in the lineup, Pittsburgh has managed to become the hottest club in the League with a current seven-game winning streak.

Team Scope:

Maple Leafs: Toronto won three of its last four games heading into the All-Star Weekend and sat just behind the New Jersey Devils for the final spot in Eastern Conference playoff race. While the Leafs fell behind 2-0 at the Islanders in their last game before the break on Jan. 24, they fought hard throughout the third period and eventually left Uniondale with a 4-3 overtime win. Clarke MacArthur tallied two goals against the Isles, including the clincher in the extra period. The Maple Leafs will need to continue that type of hard-fought effort if they hope to make the playoffs for the first time since the 2003-04 season.

"It's a good way to go into the break for us," Toronto coach Ron Wilson told reporters following the game.

Penguins: Despite being without Sidney Crosby for most of the season, the Pens are surging full speed ahead. With victories in three straight home games, Pittsburgh will attempt to extend its overall winning streak to eight games when the Maple Leafs pay a visit to Consol Energy Center.

The Pens will look to keep it going Tuesday as they try to build off an exciting 3-2 shootout win on the road against St. Louis on Jan. 24. First-time All-Star James Neal sealed it with a backhander in the fourth round of the shootout, while also tallying a goal in regulation. Meanwhile, goalie Marc-Andre Fleury continued to come up big as he extended his recent stellar play.

"Just some unbelievable, acrobatic saves, flash of the pads," Pens coach Dan Bylsma said of Fleury. "In the shootout again he comes up just big enough." 

Who's Hot: Leafs forward Joffrey Lupul had five points (1 goal, 4 assists) in his last five games heading into the All-Star break. ... Fleury has been in net for all seven of the consecutive Penguins' wins with a 2.14 goals-against average over that span.

Injury Report: The Leafs are expecting most of their injured players to return to action soon, including defenseman John-Michael Liles and winger Colby Armstrong (both out with concussions) and forward Darryl Boyce (back). ... In addition to Crosby (neck, concussion-like symptoms), Pittsburgh has Arron Asham (concussion), Simon Despres (lower body), Jordan Staal (sprained left MCL) and Robert Bortuzzo (concussion-like symptoms) on injured reserve.
Stat Pack: The goals may come in bunches Tuesday as Toronto and Pittsburgh are third and fourth, respectively, in the East with an average of 3.02 and 2.98 goals per game.

Puck Drop: The Penguins stated that the new findings by Dr. Bray will be evaluated by independent specialists over the next few days. And, in Saturday's statement, the team also assured fans of their intentions with Crosby by asserting that the most important goal is to have their captain return to full health.
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