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.
Thursday’s game between the New York Islanders and Philadelphia Flyers wasn’t even nine minutes old by the time Dale Weise had recorded the Gordie Howe hat trick.
Already with the opening goal and an assist on Radko Gudas‘ goal, giving Philly a 3-0 lead, Weise dropped the gloves with Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic for a spirited fight off a faceoff.
Not many, if any, positives for the Islanders after a disastrous start. Needing a win to close the gap on the Boston Bruins in the wild card race, New York fell behind 5-0 by the time the first period was over.
There is perhaps even more bad news for the Islanders: Hamonic wasn’t on the bench to begin the second period.
The Islanders have since provided an update: Hamonic will not return to this game due to an upper-body injury.
Talk about the worst possible start for the New York Islanders.
Trailing the Boston Bruins by four points for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, the Islanders lived through a nightmare to begin Thursday’s game, falling behind the Philadelphia Flyers by a score of 4-0 — before the midway point of the first period.
Dale Weise started the scoring at 4:30 of the first period. By the 9:19 mark, the Flyers opened up a four-goal lead and had already chased Islanders starting goalieThomas Greiss, who allowed three goals on eight shots.
Jaroslav Halak was brought into the game and promptly surrendered a goal to Jordan Weal.
It continued to get worse for the Islanders, who finished the first period trailing by five goals. Shots? They were 19-10 in favor of Philly. Yup. It was bad.
With Josh Ho-Sang in the box serving a double-minor for high sticking, Wayne Simmonds gave Philly a 5-0 lead with his 30th goal of the year.
Shaping up to be a long night for the Islanders.
For the first time since the lockout-shortened season, the Ottawa Senators will not have star defenseman Erik Karlsson in their lineup.
With the Sens four points back of Montreal for the Atlantic Division lead, Karlsson will not play tonight versus the Minnesota Wild, which ends his ironman streak at 324 consecutive games played.
Karlsson trails Brent Burns by only five points for the lead in that category among NHL defenseman. He also logs close to 27 minutes of ice time per game. Only three blue liners in the entire league — Dustin Byfuglien, Drew Doughty and Ryan Suter — play more on average per game.
The injury reportedly occurred when Karlsson blocked a shot against the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday. Trade deadline acquisition Jyrki Jokipakka is expected to make his debut for Ottawa, per the Citizen.
“If we miss him for a game or two, we’re not sure what’s going to happen,” forward Mark Stone told the Ottawa Citizen. “He’s the best defenceman in the world. If you take him out of your lineup, it’s obviously a huge blow.”
The Boston Bruins hold the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, and they will look to continue their push for the playoffs when they host the Dallas Stars on Thursday.
You can catch the game on NBCSN (7:30 p.m. ET) or online with NBC Sports’ Live Extra.
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Here are some links to check out for tonight’s game:
McAvoy has the talent to improve Bruins right now
NHL on NBCSN: Bruins continue push for playoff spot against Stars
Stars go deeper than rock bottom in Ruff’s ‘worst game’ with team