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Game Preview: Pittsburgh Penguins @ Toronto Maple Leafs 12/16/2023 - Lines, how to watch

The Pens look to make it three wins in a row in Toronto.

Pittsburgh Penguins v Toronto Maple Leafs Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Who: Pittsburgh Penguins (13-12-3, 29 points, 7th place Metropolitan Division) @ Toronto Maple Leafs (15-6-6, 36 points, 2nd place Atlantic Division)

When: 7:00 p.m. ET

How to Watch: SportsNet Pittsburgh, streaming on ESPN+

Pens’ Path Ahead: The Penguins return home this week for games against the Minnesota Wild on Monday and the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday.

Opponent Track: The Maple Leafs come to the Penguins after a loss to the Blue Jackets that was almost as devastating as it was odd. The Leafs entered the third period facing a five-goal deficit to the Jackets, then scored five straight, including the tying goal with 45 seconds remaining in the third, to complete the comeback— only to lose 6-5 in overtime.

Season Series: The Leafs only have one regulation loss in their last 14 games, and strangely enough it came to the Penguins on November 25. These two teams won’t meet again until the final month of the regular season on April 8.

Hidden Stat: Erik Karlsson leads all active defensemen with 43 career points against the Maple Leafs (per Pens PR.)

Getting to know the Maple Leafs

Projected lines

FORWARDS

Matthew Knies (?) - Auston Matthews - William Nylander

Tyler Bertuzzi - John Tavares - Mitch Marner

Nicholas Robertson - Max Domi - Calle Järnkrok

Noah Gregor - David Kämpf - Bobby McMann

DEFENSEMEN

Morgan Rielly / TJ Brodie

William Lagesson / Jake McCabe

Simon Benoit / Connor Timmins

Goalies: Ilya Samsonov, Martin Jones

Possible scratches: Matthew Knies (illness), Maxime Lajoie, Ryan Reaves (lower body injury)

IR: Mark Giordano, John Klingberg, Timothy Liljegren, Jake Muzzin, Joseph Woll, Matt Murray

  • Former Penguin Ryan Reaves suffered a lower-body injury Thursday against the Jackets and will likely be out today.
  • Matthew Knies is nearing return from illness and could return tonight.

Player stats

(via hockeydb)

  • Matthews has 23 goals through 27 games. That puts him on pace for a ridiculous 69 through an 82-game season. Only 2008 Alex Ovechkin has ever scored 65 in the modern era, so Matthews could be set for a record-breaking campaign.

And now for the Penguins

Projected lines (from Friday’s practice)

FORWARDS

Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Rickard Rakell (?)

Reilly Smith - Evgeni Malkin - Valtteri Puustinen

Radim Zohorna - Lars Eller - Drew O’Connor

Jansen Harkins - Jonathan Gruden - Jeff Carter

DEFENSEMEN

Ryan Graves / Kris Letang

Marcus Pettersson / Erik Karlsson

P.O. Joseph / John Ludvig

Goalies: Tristan Jarry, Alex Nedeljkovic

Potential scratches: Marc Johnstone, Ryan Shea, Bryan Rust (week-to-week injury)

IR: Rickard Rakell (upper body injury), Chad Ruhwedel (lower body injury), Matt Nieto (lower body injury), Noel Acciari (lower body injury)

  • Vinnie Hinostroza hit waivers yesterday and will be headed to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton if he clears by 2 p.m. today. He had one goal and two assists in 12 games for the Pens.
  • That could be a good sign for the pending return of Rakell, who is eligible to return from the IR today. He practiced with the top line Friday, shifting O’Connor back to the bottom six.

Rakell had been in the middle of an unprecedented 17-game scoring drought to start the season when he was injured. The forward on his return, per Pens Inside Scoop’s Michelle Crechiolo:

“Obviously, I was in a pretty dark place when everything went down. But I think I’ve got some time now to process this. For me, it’s just trying to look at this as a fresh start, new opportunities out there, and just try to play my game and reset.”

Slotting him in on Crosby’s wing could be an excellent way to jump-start that reset.