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First Place? Penguins Notes, Scouts & Lines vs. Maple Leafs

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Pittsburgh Penguins Game vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

The Pittsburgh Penguins have first place in the Metro Division withing their grasp Tuesday night at home against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Penguins will be without winger Zach Aston-Reese for a period of weeks but might have Dominik Kahun when they conclude their four-game homestand and kick off a home and home with the Toronto at PPG Paints Arena.

Tuesday morning, head coach Mike Sullivan announced Aston-Reese will be out “week-to-week” with a lower-body injury. However, Kahun skated on the fourth line at practice Tuesday and will be a game-time decision.

The Penguins are 7-2-1 in the last 10 home games against Toronto despite the statistical anomaly of being outscored overall. Going back further, the Penguins are 10-3-1 over their last 14 home games against ” The Big Smoke.” Overall the Penguins and Toronto have played each other well with the Penguins trailing the all-time series including playoffs 91-90-17.

Tristan Jarry was the first goalie off the ice at practice so he is the likely Penguins starter. Jarry continues to split starts with Matt Murray but has held his own in net with a 19-8-1 with a 2.14 goals-against. Toronto has named Frederik Andersen the starter.

The Penguins avoided the dreaded trap game in a 5-1 win against last-place Detroit, Sunday, The Penguins, despite surrendering the first goal, remained paced by a two-goal first period and three-goal second. Detroit scored its only goal of the game to open the scoring 5:37 after the initial puck drop. Valtteri Filppula finished off a give-and-go sequence with Tyler Bertuzzi by lifting a wrist shot into the back of the net. The Penguins tied the score 1:22 later as a Sam Lafferty found the net for the first time since Feb.2. Lafferty’s goal was initially credited to Patric Hornqvist, but a post-game scoring change rewarded it elsewhere. The Penguins took the lead on a Kris Letang power-play marker to have a goal advantage into the intermission.

The Penguin had all the scoring they needed to win the game but they did add on in the second to pad the goal differential. Hornqvist opened the second period with his actual first goal as he scored on a quick shot. The Penguins still aggressively attacking added two more goals before the second intermission. Sidney Crosby cranks a one-timer in the high slot on the dish from Marcus Pettersson to give the Penguins a 4-1 lead and Hornqvist added his second to cap out the scoring in the game. After an overall quiet but structured third, the Penguins earned themselves the win and put themselves just a point out of the Metro lead with a game in hand.

Matt Murray started for the Penguins in net and after surrendering a goal on the third shot he faced, settled in nicely as he stopped the 24 to snag his 17th win of the year. Detroit required two goaltenders as Jimmy Howard started the game but was pulled after stopping only 12 of 16 shots faced. Jonathan Bernier made 18 saves in relief. You can read more about the Penguins game against Detroit in Dan’s Recap and the Free Preview of the PHN Extra Report Card.

Toronto could never overcome an early two-goal deficit in a 5-2 loss to Buffalo, Sunday. Buffalo’s offense was backed by two-point performances by Colin Miller, Johan Larsson, and Rasmus Ristolainen. Toronto received their two goals from Egor Korshkov, who scored in his first NHL game, and Zach Hyman. Carter Hutton outdueled Fredrik Andersen in net by making 20 saves. Andersen stopped 31 of 36 shots in the loss.

Notes

On the morning of December 4, the Penguins sat at fifth in the Metropolitan Division standings with a 14-9-4 record, trailing the division-leading Washington by 13 points. Since then, the Penguins have gone 22-6-2 to bring themselves within one point of the Metropolitan Division lead with two games in hand over Washington. Coming into Tuesday’s game, eight of the Penguins’ final 25 games come against teams currently in a playoff position, which includes three more games against Washington.

Evgeni Malkin has made a habit of turning in big performances against the Toronto Maple Leafs over the course of his career. In 38 games, Malkin has 22 goals, 42 assists, and 64 points. He has been held scoreless against Toronto only six times in his career and has recorded three or more points 10 times. In the 18 games that he’s recorded multiple points versus the Toronto, the Penguins are 13-4-1.

Scouts

Injuries

Pittsburgh Penguins

Nick Bjugstad (Core Muscle, Skating)

Brian Dumoulin (Ankle, IR)

Dominik Kahun (Concussion, Practicing)

John Marino (Cheek, 3 to 6 weeks)

Zach Aston-Reese ( Lower body, week to week)

Dominik Kahun (Game Time Decision)

Toronto Maple Leafs

Cody Ceci (Ankle, IR)

Andreas Johnsson (Knee, IR)

Ilya Mikheyev (Wrist Laceration, IR)

Morgan Rielly (Foot, IR)

Special Teams

TEAMPower PlayPenalty Kill
Pittsburgh Penguins20.3% (16th NHL)82.4% (7th NHL)
New Jersey Devils17.7% (22nd NHL)82.0% (10th NHL)

Penguins Lines

Expected Penguins Lines

LWCRW
Jason ZuckerSidney CrosbyConor Sheary
Patrick MarleauEvgeni MalkinBryan Rust
Evan RodriguesJared McCannPatric Hornqvist
Brandon TanevTeddy BluegerSam Lafferty
LDRD
Brian DumoulinKris Letang
Marcus PetterssonJohn Marino
Jack JohnsonJustin Schultz
Goalie
Matt Murray
Tristan Jarry

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