The Toronto Maple Leafs could be in for a rough ride tonight against the Pittsburgh Penguins when the two face off at CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN). The Leafs head into tonight’s game feeling banged up after their physical loss to Boston last night and, oh yeah, the Penguins will be jacked up after they unveil Mario Lemieux’s statue outside the arena before tonight’s game.
Toronto comes in having seen Joffrey Lupul, Matt Lombardi, and Colby Armstrong all find different ways to get hurt in last night’s game. One face we won’t see called up from the NHL is former Leafs first round pick Nazem Kadri. Instead, it sounds like newly acquired prospect Carter Ashton is on his way into town to give the Leafs a new, warm body.
Possibly going without Lupul means that the Leafs lose one of their top two scorers meaning Phil Kessel will need to do the heavy lifting tonight against Pittsburgh. It’s an unenviable task for the goal scoring leader on a team that’s desperate to stay relevant to the playoff race.
On the flip side, Pittsburgh has a lot of great news on its horizon. Yesterday saw that Sidney Crosby has been cleared for contact in practice and the clock begins as to when we’ll see him back on the ice in a game. Figuring that he’ll be back in time for the start of the playoffs should make everyone in the East nervous. Adding him to a lineup that sees Evgeni Malkin lining up to be one of the Hart Trophy finalists as well as seeing Marc-Andre Fleury having a huge season of his own and you have a Penguins team that’s relishing in positive news.
While the Pens still have an issue with Kris Letang being out with concussion-like symptoms, the way they’re constructed right now makes them a very dangerous team and one that the playoff-hopeful Leafs would rather not be dealing with at the moment. Even more so on a night where they’re honoring the Hall of Fame owner.