By Garrett Perry and Josh Elliott
THN gets you prepared for the four games scheduled Monday night, starting in Pittsburgh, where a banged up Penguins squad faces a Maple Leafs team that is struggling to find any consistency.
Guess who’s coming to dinner
Which Toronto team will show up in Pittsburgh tonight? Will it be the Leafs who shredded the league-leading Chicago Blackhawks for 7seven goals Saturday? Or will it be the same Leafs who were outscored 14-6 in games against the Bruins, Kings and Blues in three losses before that? Toronto has split the season series against the Penguins so far, winning 4-1 Oct. 26 before blowing a three-goal second period lead and losing 6-5 in a shootout Nov. 27.
And while we’re asking questions, which Penguins stars will be in the lineup against the Leafs? Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang are both question marks heading into the game. Malkin left Saturday’s contest against Detroit with a leg injury, while Letang missed the game entirely after suffering an upper-body injury against the Devils Friday. Malkin and Letang lead the Penguins in scoring against the Leafs this year with four points each.
Mile High power play problems
The Colorado Avalanche have gone 10 games without a power play marker, the team’s worst stretch since the Nordiques moved from Quebec to the Mile High City. They have gone 0 for 26 with the man advantage during the drought, dropping their conversion rate to 14.6 percent on the year. It isn’t just the power play that has struggled for the Avs however, as they have only mustered 18 goals in those past 10 games as well, tying them for the lowest total in the Western Conference over that span. Lead by the fiery Patrick Roy, the Avs will hope to get back on track, as they begin a home-and-home series against the Dallas Stars, a team with the second worst power play in the league at 11.8 percent. Four big points will be on the line in this series, as the Stars trail the Avs by eight in the Central Division.
McKenna big deal of it
With reigning Vezina winner Sergei Bobrovsky still out and injured backup Curtis McElhinney unlikely to be ready Monday, journeyman goaltender Mike McKenna looks like the next man in line for the Columbus net. The 30-year-old McKenna finished a 4-2 win against the Rangers after McElhinney went down Thursday, then stopped 27 shots in a 4-3 OT loss against the Blues Saturday. The career minor-leaguer has just 19 NHL games under his belt with the Blue Jackets, Devils and Lightning.
Ottawa Blues fest
The St. Louis Blues head into the nation’s capital seeking their fourth straight win for the second time this season. The Blues offense has been explosive this year, averaging 3.45 goals per game, while scoring at least two goals in all but one game this season. Converting on 24.1 percent of its chances, the Blues have the best power play unit in the Western Conference. Leading the charge for them is underrated goal scorer Alexander Steen, who is second in the league with 22 goals and ninth in total points with 35. A win for the Senators won’t come easy, as the Blues have only six regulation losses on the season and are 11-3 against teams in the Eastern Conference.