The Pittsburgh Penguins (33-22-4) host the fast skating, uber-talented, offensive potent but somewhat defensively challenged Toronto Maple Leafs (35-19-5), tonight at PPG Paints Arena. It is a potential Eastern Conference Final preview, or maybe a first-round playoff matchup.
The Maple Leafs are comfortable in the Atlantic Division top three (75 points). They trail the Boston Bruins by three points and the Tampa Bay Lightning by six points. The Penguins have put distance between themselves and the Eastern Conference Wild Card picture. The Penguins are solidly in second place, three points behind the Washington Capitals, but only two points ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers.
The marquee matchup is great center versus great center. Sidney Crosby against Auston Matthews. The game and its future. In response to Pittsburgh Hockey Now, Crosby discussed his maturation in this type of game. It is an excellent read from Shelly Anderson.
Crosby’s play in 2018 has vaulted him into the top 10 of NHL scorers. Phil Kessel and Evgeni Malkin are also chasing NHL leading scorer, Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov.
Numerology? Crosby, Malkin, and Kessel are tied as the Penguins leading scorers with 66 points. However, Phil Kessel doesn’t really care about the scoring race. Read more here.
Matthews leads the Maple Leafs with 47 points (26g, 21a) in 49 games.
You know the lines:
No Schultz. Matt Hunwick in. The Penguins tweeted, at 7 p.m., Schultz is out due to illness.
Unknown if it’s an upper body or lower body illness.
Zach Aston Reese’s game-winning goal was correctly awarded to Kris Letang, yesterday.
The Penguins have won 10 straight at home, and nine of their last 10 overall.
Matt Murray played his 100th game, Thursday. Murray is 62-24-7, which is the most wins by a goalie in his first 100 games to debut since 2005-06. It is also the most wins in the first 100 games since Chris Osgood in 1995-96.
Murray’s next win will tie Jean-Sebastien Aubin for fifth on the Penguins all-time wins list.
Murray has stopped 97 of 102 shots in the Penguins active three-game winning streak (.951 save percentage). He is 7-0-1 in his last eight games.
Evgeni Malkin is two points away from 900.
The Calgary Flames are scouting the Penguins for the second game in a row. Don Maloney, the Flames VP of Hockey Operations is in the house.
The St. Louis Blues Assistant GM, Kevin McDonald is also listed.
A pro scout from the L.A. Kings and the New Jersey Devils are also here.
Toronto is thought to be shopping for defensive help. The Penguins are admittedly attempting to upgrade at center.
Penguins scout was in Ottawa, today. The Pens were not listed for the Kings-Sabres game, earlier today.