Toronto Maple Leafs at Pittsburgh Penguins – Game #23 Preview, Projected Lines & TV Info – Maple Leafs Hot Stove

Tonight on HINC, the Maple Leafs and Penguins will play the rubber match of their season series after splitting their two matchups earlier this month (7 p.m. EST, Sportsnet).

After falling 5-2 at home to the Leafs on Nov. 15 to drop them to 6-7-3 at the time, the Penguins have sine rattled off five straight wins over Minnesota, Winnipeg, Chicago, Calgary, and Philadelphia, outscoring the opposition 20-9 over that stretch.

The Penguins are full marks for their winning streak based on their command of the even-strength play, controlling over 56% of the expected goals at five-on-five while receiving much-improved goaltending with a .944 save percentage at 5v5 that bests even the Leafs‘ .942 since the middle of the month. It’s largely been Tristan Jarry carrying the mail for the Penguins in net, though, and the Leafs will face Casey DeSmith in a back-to-back for both teams tonight.

The Pittsburgh power play is clicking at only 13% during this 5-0 stretch, but they’re averaging around three goals a game at five-on-five to go along with one 5v4 goal and one 5v3 goal. Sidney Crosby has racked up a ridiculous 11 points during the Penguins’ five-game winning streak to go along with regular offensive contributions from the team’s fourth line of Ryan Poehling (three goals, four points), Teddy Blueger (four assists), and Josh Archibald (one goal, three points).

The Leafs won their first game of the season in which they allowed more than three goals in yesterday’s victory over Minnesota (the Wild narrowed it to 4-3 late in the game, making William Nylander’s third-period goal the game-winner). With no help arriving yet on the banged-up blue line and Ilya Samsonov close to a return but still recovering, the Leafs will need to remain stout in their five-man commitment and structure defensively in front of goaltender Erik Källgren, who has two wins in eight starts, although the Leafs have earned at least a point in six of those contests.


Game Day Quotes

Sheldon Keefe on the season series against Pittsburgh so far:

It is the third time we’ve played them this month. In preparing for them, I think it remains the same in terms of our plan. Without question, it seems they have their swagger back. They are coming with lots of pace, energy, and confidence.

They have the ability, as they have shown over time, to be a team that when they find their rhythm and groove, they are tough to handle. Even within the two games we’ve played against them, we have felt that.

We just have to continue to focus on the things that are giving us a chance to win on this trip with this group that we have been putting in, especially with our defense being what it is. The guys have played very well as a group of five. We certainly have to do that tonight.

Keefe on what allows Mark Giordano to play big minutes at his age:

The fact that he is a competitor, first and foremost. We use that team a lot — competing, being a competitor — but he is a world-class competitor. As I have gotten to know him more and watched him closer, that is at the root of who he is as an individual. That drives him. It’s why he is still playing at his age despite all of what he has accomplished in his career as a top-tier defenseman who has won the Norris and all of these things.

He is a competitor at his root. That drives so many other things. No matter what comes his way, he is ready for it. He takes care of himself and knows his body. But he is a competitor.

All of the experience he has allows him to pick his spots. He doesn’t put himself or his team in bad spots very often.

Keefe on Erik Källgren needing to bounce back after a tough ending to the Islanders loss:

Don’t overthink it. These games come fast and furious. Just focus on the game that is coming. I have already forgotten about that situation.

Our team is just going to focus on playing today. Erik has dealt with different situations that have come this way very well in his time here. He will have a fresh mind and be ready to go.

Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan on how his team has turned it around during their five-game winning streak:

We are playing a more complete game. I feel like we are playing a more conscientious game. We haven’t given up as many odd-man rushes. We have cut down on some of the easy offense we were giving to our opponents earlier in the year.

I just give the players a lot of credit. They are paying attention to details out there. They are making good decisions. They are competing hard.

It is a collective effort out there from everybody on the ice. Every line is chipping in in some capacity. The penalty kill has been huge for us. The power play is making strides.

For me, that is the most important thing: It is all about the group. I think we are getting contributions up and down the lineup.

Sullivan on his team’s fourth line of Poehling – Blueger – Archibald:

That line is playing really well for us. They have really built an identity for themselves as far as how they are playing to help us win games. They are a really conscientious, stingy defensive line. They have a great defensive conscience. They compete hard on pucks. When they can chip in offensively, it is just that much more of a bonus for us.


Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines

Forwards

#58 Michael Bunting – #34 Auston Matthews – #88 William Nylander

#19 Calle Järnkrok – #91 John Tavares – #16 Mitch Marner

#15 Alex Kerfoot   – #29 Pontus Holmberg – #62 Denis Malgin

#12 Zach Aston-Reese – #64 David Kämpf – #47 Pierre Engvall

Defensemen

#55 Mark Giordano – #3 Justin Holl

#38 Rasmus Sandin – #37 Timothy Liljegren

#98 Victor Mete – #81 Mac Hollowell

Goaltenders

Starter: #50 Erik Källgren

#30 Matt Murray

Extras: Conor Timmins, Nick Robertson, Wayne Simmonds

Injured
: Jordie Benn, Morgan Rielly, TJ Brodie, Jake Muzzin, Ilya Samsonov


Pittsburgh Penguins Projected Lines

Forwards

#58  Jake Guentzel – #87 Sidney Crosby – #67 Rickard Rakell

#16 Jason Zucker – #71 Evgeni Malkin – #17 Bryan Rust

#23 Brock McGinn – #77 Jeff Carter – #43 Danton Heinen

#25 Ryan Poehling – #53 Teddy Blueger – #15 Josh Archibald

Defensemen

#28 Marcus Petersson – #58 Kris Letang

#73 Pierre-Oliver Joseph – #26 Jeff Petry

#8 Brian Dumoulin – #44 Jan Rutta

Goaltenders

Starter: #1 Casey DeSmith

#35 Tristan Jarry

Extras: Chad Ruhwedel, Kasperi Kapanen