Pens aim to get back on track in Toronto
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Pittsburgh Penguins will try to halt their first losing streak of the 2013-14 season when they visit the Toronto Maple Leafs in Saturday's battle at Air Canada Centre.
Pittsburgh has lost two straight in regulation on the heels of a four-game winning streak, dropping the club to 7-3-0 this season.
Although the Penguins were swept in four straight games by Boston in the 2013 Eastern Conference finals, the club never lost three in a row during last year's lockout-shortened regular season. In fact, the last time Pittsburgh dropped three in a row in the regular season was during a six-game slide from Dec. 29, 2011 to Jan. 11, 2012.
Pittsburgh hopes to avoid a third straight loss tonight when it faces a team it has some success against in recent years. The Penguins have won two straight, three of four and four of the last six meetings against the Leafs. Pittsburgh also has claimed two in a row and five of the past eight encounters at Air Canada Centre.
The Pens went 1-2-0 on a recent three-game homestand, beating Vancouver before dropping consecutive tilts against Colorado and the New York Islanders. After losing a 1-0 decision to the Avalanche on Monday, Pittsburgh was dealt another one-goal regulation loss in Friday's game against the Islanders. Josh Bailey scored with 1:40 remaining in the third period to lift New York to a 4-3 win at CONSOL Energy Center.
Jeff Zatkoff, making his second NHL start, allowed four goals on 25 shots for Pittsburgh. Marc-Andre Fleury will get the call in net on Saturday.
"I felt way better," Zatkoff said of his second start. "I felt confident the whole game. Just ten minutes got away from us, it's frustrating. A game we probably should have had. Credit them, they played hard and got the win."
Sidney Crosby scored his eighth goal of the season in the loss and is leading the NHL with 18 points. Jussi Jokinen and Deryk Engelland also added goals in Friday's setback.
Crosby has recorded 40 points (19G, 21A) in 25 career games against the Maple Leafs.
Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang made his season debut after missing the first nine games with a lower-body injury. He notched three shots on net while logging over 25 minutes of ice time.
The Pens are playing the first of two straight on the road tonight and will visit Carolina on Monday. Pittsburgh is 2-1-0 as the guest this season.
Toronto, meanwhile, lost 5-2 in Columbus on Friday, giving the Maple Leafs three losses in their last four trips to the ice. Marian Gaborik netted the go-ahead score during a four-goal third period for the Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena.
Phil Kessel and Dave Bolland tallied for the Maple Leafs, while Jonathan Bernier allowed four scores on 35 shots. Bernier has started the last three games for Toronto, but James Reimer could get the start on Saturday.
Reimer hasn't played since Oct. 17 against Carolina, when he left just 32 seconds into the game following a collision with teammate Josh Leivo. Despite being shaken up by the hit, Reimer was able suit up as Bernier's backup in each of Toronto's last three games.
Leafs forward Joffrey Lupul is questionable for Saturday's game after sitting out last night's outing due to a bruised foot suffered in practice earlier this week. Lupul is tied with Kessel for the team lead in goals with six and is second on the club with 10 points.
On Friday, David Clarkson made his long-awaited season debut for Toronto after missing the club's first 10 games while serving a suspension for leaving the bench in an exhibition game against the Sabres. He was a minus-1 with four shots on net in 15:10 of ice time.
"We're not asking him to do anything other than to play a solid game," said Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle. "Working hard, banging and crashing the boards, that's his game and we'll expect that 10 games from now."
Toronto has a 4-2-0 record as the home team this season and after Saturday's contest, the Maple Leafs will head out on a three-game road trip. The tour of Western Canada begins Tuesday in Edmonton before Toronto makes stops in Calgary and Vancouver.