The Toronto Maple Leafs are in Pittsburgh today as they prepare to battle the Penguins. The CONSOL Energy Center will be rocking as Pittsburgh fans are amped up to see their talented team for the first time this season.
The Penguins have already beaten two quality opponents, the Philadelphia Flyers and the New York Rangers, while tonight will definitely be the toughest test for the Leafs so far. They will look to rebound after falling 2-1 to the Buffalo Sabres in their home opener on Monday night. Ryan Miller had 34 saves as the Leafs dominated play but couldn’t find the back of the net. Tonight they take on another hot goalie in Marc-Andre Fleury who let in only one goal in 27 shots in Saturday’s 3-1 win over the Flyers.
The scariest part for the Leafs is the Penguins have scored nine goals in two games with virtually no production from Sidney Crosby. Crosby only has one assist in the first two games but you have to think at some point he’s going to break out in a big way. That could very well happen tonight behind a raucous home crowd.
Evgeni Malkin is also looking to score his first goal of the season, however he has already put up four assists. James Neal is off to a great start with three goals and Chris Kunitz, Pascal Dupuis and Tyler Kennedy have all found the score sheet as well. The Leafs will need strong play from expected starting goalie James Reimer tonight to repel the Pens’ prolific attack. This will be Reimer’s first game action since March 23rd of last season and he’ll need to shake off any rust from the long layoff in a hurry.
The Leafs will likely shake up their forward ranks as they search for more goals. From Tuesday’s practice, James van Riemsdyk was skating on the second line with Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin while Clarke MacArthur was on the third line with Nazem Kadri and Leo Komarov. However, today’s morning skate saw an even greater shake-up than expected:
Leaf lines at morning skate: MacArthur-Bozak-Kessel; JVR-Grabo-Kulemin; Lupul-Kadri-Komarov
— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) January 23, 2013
The biggest surprise here is Joffrey Lupul moving from the top line where he’s shown chemistry with Phil Kessel and being replaced by MacArthur. At any rate, this shows head coach Randy Carlyle is committed to rolling three scoring lines rather than having a checking third line. It will be interesting to see how he divides the minutes.
Jake Gardiner says he’s feeling better from his concussion and is just waiting on the doctors to clear him. However, it looks like the Leafs are wisely playing it safe with their 22-year-old stud defenseman and will hold him out from tonight’s game. Cody Franson is also expected to slot back into the lineup after sitting out Monday night’s game. The pairings from the morning skate suggest Korbinian Holzer and Mike Komisarek are the odd-men out on the blue-line.
Tonight’s game will be broadcast nationally in Canada on TSN and can be heard on TSN 1050 on the radio side. Check back for more updates throughout the day as we prepare for the 7 PM puck drop.