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Penguins vs. Maple Leafs Game Preview

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins
Pittsburgh Penguins

Home: 9-5-1-19
Road: 10-3-1-21

WHEN: Dec. 8, 2010 - 7:00 pm   |   WHERE: CONSOL Energy Center
FSN  |  LISTEN: Pens HD Radio, 105.9 FM
Toronto Maple Leafs
Home: 7-5-3-17

  Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Toronto Maple Leafs 
Phil Kessel
RW  -  #81
  10 Goals
  5 Assists
  15 Points
• The Leafs sent their first- and second-round picks in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft (as well as a first-round pick in 2011) to the Boston Bruins for Kessel, who signed a five-year contract on Sept. 19, 2009.

• The first-round pick (5th overall) in 2005 has proved himself as a scorer over the past two seasons, netting 30-plus goals in each campaign.

• The winger, who represented  the United States at the 2010 Winter Olympics, paces the Leafs with 10 goals and has fired a team-leading 99 shots.
Kris Versteeg
RW  -  #32
  8 Goals
  7 Assists
  15 Points
• Thrives on the power play as five of his eight goals have been scored with the man-advantage, which leads the team and is tied for ninth in the league.

• Was a solid third-line scoring threat in Chicago’s playoff run last season, posting 14 points (6G-8A) through 22 games as the Blackhawks won the 2010 Stanley Cup.

• The feisty winger, who hit the 20-goal mark in each of his last two seasons with Chicago, leads all Leafs forwards with an average of 20:29 minutes-played each game.
Mike Komisarek
D  -  #8
  1 goal
  6 assists
  7 points
• The towering, hard-hitting defenseman played just 34 games last season after suffering a season-ending shoulder injury on Feb. 3.

• Had spent six seasons with Montreal before signing a five-year contract on July 1, 2009, that will keep him patrolling the Toronto blue line through the 2013-14 campaign.

• Known for his toughness, he led the Canadiens with 121 penalty-minutes in 2008-09 en route to being voted an NHL All-Star that same season.
The Toronto Maple Leafs will battle the high-flying Penguins at CONSOL Energy Center on Wednesday for the second contest of their four-game series.

The Leafs showed their resiliency on Saturday by battling back from a 4-1 deficit in the third period to top Washington, 5-4, in a shootout. It was the Leafs’ second-consecutive shootout win after losing four straight.

GM Brian Burke, regarded as one of the best in the business, has assembled a dynamic group of forwards, starting with offseason acquisition Clarke MacArthur. MacArthur spent five seasons with Buffalo before signing with Toronto on Aug. 28. The forward has turned in a number of big performances so far this year and leads the team with 21 points (9G-12A).

Two surprises for the Leafs have been Nikolai Kulemin and Mikhail Grabovski. The two have provided some unexpected scoring punch for Toronto, combining for 15 goals and 35 points. Grabovski and Kulemin rank second and third in team scoring, respectively.

Phil Kessel began the season with seven goals in the first seven games. Although he has cooled off as of late, the 23-year-old has the potential to experience an offensive resurgence, as he’s posted 30-plus goals in each of his past two seasons. Kris Versteeg and former Penguin Colby Armstrong round out the offense as two fan favorites that provide energy and physicality up top.

Despite losing captain Dion Phaneuf to a leg laceration on Nov. 2 that will keep him out for the next 1-2 weeks, Toronto has an extremely capable defensive corps. Veterans Mike Komisarek, Francois Beauchemin and Tomas Kaberle patrol the blue line, while youngster Luke Schenn has been enjoying a strong start. The 21-year-old is a force all over the ice, leading the team in hits (78) while also ranking among the team’s leaders in blocked shots (52) and time-on-ice (22:55).

Netminder Jonas Gustavsson, nicknamed the “Monster” for his stature and competitiveness, has been excellent between the pipes with Jean-Sebastien Giguere recovering from a groin injury. The 6-foot-3 Gustavsson has been improving steadily in his second NHL season, despite having a 4-7-2 record, posting a 2.75 goals-against average and a .908 save percentage.
  • Wednesday marks the second time this season Toronto will travel to CONSOL Energy Center. On Oct. 13, the Leafs topped the Penguins, 4-3. Clarke MacArthur tied a career-high with two goals for Toronto, while Chris Kunitz, Maxime Talbot and Sidney Crosby all scored for Pittsburgh. With that win, the Leafs jumped to a 3-0 start for the first time since its division-winning 1999-2000 season.
  • With that loss to Toronto on Oct. 13, the Penguins were left still looking for their first win in their new home, starting the season with an 0-3 record at CONSOL Energy Center. Since that game, Pittsburgh has barreled to a 9-2-1 record at their new arena and has won an NHL-best six straight contests at home.
  • Penguins netminder Marc-Andre Fleury has rebounded with a vengeance after allowing four goals on 14 shots to the Leafs in that game. Fleury is riding a personal-best nine-game winning streak after making 27 saves in Pittsburgh’s 2-1 win over New Jersey on Monday. In the Penguins’ 12-game unbeaten stretch, Fleury has played in 11 of those contests. He’s stopped 320 of 340 shots, posted a .941 save percentage and 1.64 goals-against average.
  • In the season series against the Leafs last year, Sidney Crosby led all scorers with six goals. The Penguins captain netted the game-winning goals in two of the four contests to spur the Penguins to a 3-1-0 record against their Eastern Conference rival. Over his six-year career, Crosby has 33 points (15G-18A) in 21 games versus Toronto.
  • While Crosby has been producing points at a torrid pace, the rest of the team is chipping in as well. It’s the contributions from all over the Pittsburgh roster that have gotten the Penguins on such a roll. Thirteen Penguins have scored goals during the team’s ten-game winning streak, while 19 players have picked up points. The top producers behind Crosby on this stretch are defenseman Kris Letang with nine points (2G-7A), Chris Kunitz with seven points (4G-3A), and Tyler Kennedy with six points (2G-4A).


Hold Onto Leads: On Monday, Washington held a 4-1 lead entering the final frame when Toronto stormed back with three third-period goals, including one with 59 seconds remaining in regulation, to force overtime and win the subsequent shootout. The Penguins have done a stellar job holding onto leads in tight games, with five of their past 10 wins being one-goal games. They need to keep up their solid defensive play against a skilled, speedy Leafs squad.

Keep It Simple: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! Over their 12-0-1 unbeaten streak, the Penguins have been entering each game knowing what they need to do in order to earn wins. They haven’t been trying any fancy dipsy-doodle plays—it’s gritty, hard-working hockey that’s been the catalyst behind their success. “I think you realize what makes you successful so you know what you have to do,” Paul Martin said. “It just simplifies everything to the point where it just becomes natural, like a machine.”
C Jordan Staal, broken right hand (up to  two weeks)
F Mike Comrie, lower-body (4)
LW Mike Brown, broken finger (4-6 weeks)
D Dion Phaneuf, leg laceration (1-2 weeks)
G Jean-Sebastien Giguere, groin (day-to-day)
Crosby (24) Kessel (10)
Crosby (24) Kaberle (14)
Crosby (48) MacArthur (21)
Engelland (62) Orr (51)
Letang (+15) Kaberle (+3)
Crosby (8) Versteeg (5)
Cooke (2)
Kessel (1)
Fleury (12-6-1) Giguere (6-5-2)
Johnson (2.00) Gustavsson (2.75)
Johnson (.931) Gustavsson (.908)

Chris Kunitz - Kunitz has been capitalizing on the opportunities that come while playing alongside the scorching-hot Sidney Crosby, while managing to create plenty of his own. The physical left winger scored a goal and added an assist in Monday’s 2-1 win over New Jersey, giving him a point in six of the past 10 games. He now has four goals and three assists over that span and leads all Penguins wingers with 17 total points (8G-9A).
Clarke MacArthur - The forward exploded with a two-goal effort in the Leafs’ 5-4 shootout win over the Capitals on Monday, including the tying marker with 1:24 left in regulation, for his fifth multi-point effort of the season. MacArthur has been the glue of the Leafs offense so far this season, pacing the team with 21 points (9G-12A) through 26 games. He’s also had Pittsburgh’s number so far this season, netting a pair in Toronto’s 4-3 win at CONSOL Energy Center on Oct. 13.

By the Numbers: 10-Game Winning Streak
Total Team Effort Powers Pens Streak
Penguins Report: 12/7/10
Kunitz Capitalizing on Opportunities 
Notebook: Perfect 10 
Aftermath: Penguins 2, Devils 1 
Third Line's A Charm      
Lovejoy Reads to Sixth-Grade Students

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Author: Michelle Crechiolo
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