Crosby geared up for HNIC

TERRY KOSHAN, LANCE HORNBY AND MIKE ZEISBERGER

, Last Updated: 9:39 AM ET

Memo to the Maple Leafs:

Sidney Crosby is even more motivated than usual, if that's possible.

"It's a big game," Crosby said of the Leafs-Pittsburgh Penguins tilt at the Air Canada Centre tonight. "It's centre stage. Toronto is a big hockey town. It is Hockey Night in Canada so this is a big stage for us and I think everyone gets excited, not just us.

"(The Leafs) are going to be pumped up, too. They played pretty well against Nashville and came up short, but we are going to expect a desperate hockey team."

The Penguins have won both meetings with the Leafs this season, each in Pittsburgh. Ten power plays for the Penguins in each of those games proved to be the Leafs undoing.

"I wouldn't mind that happening again," Crosby said, referring to Toronto's penalty woes.

SNEAK PEAKS

Some Leafs are fighting the urge to peek at the NHL out-of-town scoreboard in these times of playoff uncertainty, while others say they don't need the distraction in the middle of a game.

"We have to worry about ourselves," defenceman Hal Gill said. "If we don't win a game from here on in, we're not going to make it."

But not wanting to have any players completely in the dark about the playoff picture, the Toronto coaching staff has attached a condensed version of the Eastern Conference race to a post-game report each man receives.

"We get it the next day, but I don't think we can worry about things that are beyond our control," defenceman Pavel Kubina said.

"The only help we can really get is when teams from the other conference beat an Eastern team."

Many Leafs recall it was around this time last year that they started losing ground in the playoff race.

LOOSE LEAFS

Winger Alex Steen thinks he will be able to play the Penguins tonight after a knee on knee collision in Nashville on Thursday.

"I just lifted my leg at the right time," Steen said, after having crawled off the ice after banging into Predators' Scottie Upshall.


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