The Toronto Maple Leafs will be hoping to notch their first win of the regular season Saturday night at home against the Stanley Cup-champion Pittsburgh Penguins.
The game will be the first of three in four nights for Toronto (0-2-1), and Leafs head coach Ron Wilson knows that facing a team the calibre of Pittsburgh might be a blessing in disguise.
“It would be great for us to find a way to beat Pittsburgh, great for our confidence, but we did beat them three of four last year,” Wilson told reporters on Friday.
“We’ve worked on a bunch of things, now we’ve got to go on the ice and execute.”
Wilson shuffling the deck
Wilson tested out several new forward line combinations in practice on Friday, most notably pairing fourth-liner Jamal Mayers with John Mitchell and Jason Blake.
“We’re trying different things in practice like I would in a game,” he said. “I’m getting them ready for things that might happen in a game.
“You’re looking for things, guys working together, trying to find chemistry.”
Saturday night’s game will also see the return of veteran Vesa Toskala between the pipes.
The assignment will be the Finn’s first game action since being yanked from last Saturday’s game in Washington after letting in three first-period goals.
Pittsburgh (3-1-0) meanwhile is coming off a 5-4 victory on Thursday night over the Philadelphia Flyers, its rough-and-tumble state rivals.
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby is not taking the Leafs lightly, however.
“I expect a tough game, they’re always really strong at home,” he told the Toronto Sun. “We expect it to be a pretty high paced game.”
Leafs hope to continue trend against Pens
In this year’s pre-season, Toronto and Pittsburgh squared off twice.
The first exhibition was a closely contested 4-3 decision in favour of the blue and white, while the second tilt saw the Leafs skate off with a 3-2 overtime win.
Back in February, Toronto thumped the Pens 6-2 in the last regular season meeting between the clubs en route to taking the 2008-09 season series 3-1.
The Maple Leafs are ranked 21st on offence in the NHL, averaging 2.7 goals per game, and have scored 33.3 per cent of the time when on the man advantage.
Conversely, Pittsburgh is currently 19th on offence, averaging 2.8 goals per game, but have scored just twice on the power play to date.
Toronto is averaging two goals per game, while giving up three goals per at home. On the road, the Penguins are averaging four goals per game and have given up 3.5 goals against on defence.