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.
Who says players don’t care about preseason hockey?
Matt Puempel and Nick Lappin are trying to earn spots on their respective clubs, so they know they may have to do the little things others aren’t willing to do to stick around in the NHL.
On Wednesday night, that involved dropping the gloves against each other. These two seemed to be in mid-season form when it came to throwing punches.
Neither player is considered a tough guy. Lappin had 17 penalty minutes in 43 games with the Devils last season, while Puempel has 28 penalty minutes in 79 career NHL games.
Here’s the video footage of the scrap:
By the way, the Rangers won 4-3 in overtime.
The Los Angeles Kings came away with a 5-2 preseason win over the Vancouver Canucks in the first of the 2017 NHL China Games. This contest took place in lovely Shanghai.
Adrian Kempe got the ball rolling for Kings, as he scored the first goal of the game on the power play to make it 1-0 for his team (top).
Kings forward Tanner Pearson scored a great shorthanded breakaway goal to extend Los Angeles’ lead to 2-0 (check out the Pearson goal by clicking the video below).
The shorthanded goal against wasn’t the only issue the Canucks power play had in this game. Vancouver managed to score once on the man-advantage, but they finished the game 1-for-14 in that department (yes, it’s only a preseason game).
with Vancouver trailing 3-0 in the second period, Sven Baertschi finally got them on the board to cut the Kings lead to 3-1.
Markus Granlund made it 3-2 in the third period, but that’s as close as the Canucks would come to tying the score.
Pearson extended Los Angeles’ lead to 4-2 before Jeff Carter finished off the game with an empty-net goal.
These two teams will meet again in Beijing on Saturday at 3:30 a.m. ET.
Torey Krug‘s 2017 training camp is officially over.
The Bruins defenseman suffered a non-displaced fracture in his jaw after taking a puck to the face in Tuesday’s preseason game against the Red Wings.
General Manager Don Sweeney expects Krug to be re-evaluated in three weeks, which means he could miss Boston’s regular-season opener against Nashville on Oct. 5.
Losing Krug for any regular season games would be huge for the Bruins, as he had eight goals and 51 points in 81 games last season.
In other injury news, the Bruins also announced that forward Matt Beleskey (foot contusion) is day-to-day. He was hurt in Boston’s preseason opener against Montreal on Monday.
Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson (upper body) is also day-to-day. He was injured against the Red Wings, too.
It looks like the Washington Capitals are going to give Jakub Vrana the opportunity of a lifetime.
Washington has given the young winger a chance to earn a spot on the right side of the top line with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Alex Ovechkin.
On Wednesday night, they got to put the chemistry to the test, as Vrana and the Caps played the Canadiens in Montreal.
Vrana finished the game with a power play goal (an innocent shot that went off Canadiens defenseman Brandon Davidson and in the net). Kuznetsov and Ovechkin registered the assists on the goal and the Caps won 4-2.
“We played fast today,” Vrana said, per the Washington Post. “We had some passes today, some chances. It’s always a good sign when you have chances. … You’re going to be confident when you play with guys like this. You’re just going to be confident on the ice with the puck. Just play fast and build some chemistry there.”
The 21-year-old got his first taste of real NHL action last season, but the production simply wasn’t there (three goals and three assists in 21 games). But the 13th overall pick in the 2014 draft did put up solid numbers in the AHL, as he had 36 points in 49 games last year and 34 points in 36 games with the Hershey Bears two years ago.
“He gets to space,” head coach Barry Trotz said. “He gets on the puck because he moves his legs and his speed is noticeable. Kuzy can get him the puck, and getting down ice, he can put some pressure to create a forecheck, too. He worked hard today, and I think we keep putting him with top players, because we think he’s going to be a top player.”