Morning Skate: Red Wings at Maple Leafs Preview

Abelimages

Game 38

7p ET, Air Canada Centre

Toronto, ON

TV: Fox Sports Detroit, NHL Network (US), CBC

Radio: 97.1 The Ticket

Leafs Blog: Pension Plan Puppets

It's the Winter Classic preview.

It's not the exact match up we'll see on January 1 personnel-wise because of the number of injured players out of the lineup, but I expect this game to feel a little more than your average contest. It's an original six showdown against a team that the Red Wings haven't seen in over a year. The Maple Leafs are going to want to defend home ice and I have to imagine the crowd will be awesome for this game. If it's anything like the crowd at the Joe during the Wings vs Canadiens game a few years back, it's going to be awesome. I expect both teams to have a little extra jump in their step tonight.

This game is setting the table for the WInter Classic. The winning team will have a little bit of bragging rights heading into the Big House. Plus, there's the obviously 24/7 implications. Beyond that, it directly impacts the standings too. It's a four point game tonight. If the Wings win, they put even more distance between themselves and the Leafs. If Toronto takes it, they'll jump Detroit in the Atlantic standings. Tonight isn't just a statement game, it's a very important game in the standings.

The Expected Lineup

Forwards

Todd Bertuzzi Pavel Datsyuk Tomas Tatar
Drew Miller Joakim Andersson Daniel Alfredsson
Jordin Tootoo Riley Sheahan Tomas Jurco
Daniel Cleary Luke Glendening Patrick Eaves

Defensemen

Niklas Kronwall Jonathan Ericsson
Kyle Quincey Brendan Smith
Brian Lashoff Danny DeKeyser

Goaltenders

Jonas Gustavsson (starting)
Petr Mrazek

Scratches: Mikael Samuelsson, Jakub Kindl

Injuries: Darren Helm (shoulder), Justin Abdelkader (concussion), Johan Franzen (concussion), Henrik Zetterberg (back) & Stephen Weiss (groin)

MAPLE LEAFS THE MATCH-UP RED WINGS
18-16-5 (39 pts; 5th in Atlantic) Record 16-12-9 (41 pts; 4th in Atlantic)
2.60 (15th in NHL) Goals Per Game 2.54 (18th in NHL)
2.81 (20th) Goals Against Per Game 2.57 (13th)
23.1% (4th) Power Play % 18.2% (14th)
77.6% (27th) Penalty Kill % 84.8% (8th)
Phil Kessel (17 goals) Goal Leader Pavel Datsyuk (13 goals)
Phil Kessel (32 points) Points Leader Henrik Zetterberg (30 points)

Opponent Outlook

Player to Fear: It's Kessel. Even if everyone thinks he's weird and awkward… he's a pretty good hockey player.

X-Factor: James van Riemsdyk. He shoots a lot. He can score. He can hurt you on the power play.

Familiar Faces: No former Wings on the Leafs, but Gustavsson was once a Leafs goaltender. I bet you didn't know that.

Thumbs up (One Thing to Like About Toronto): Hockey Hall of Fame is there.

Thumbs down (One Thing to Dislike About Toronto): Randy Carlyle is a boob.

Bullets of Knowledge

  • The Red Wings are 275-273-93-3 (W-L-T-OTL) all-time against the Maple Leafs.

  • Last 10 games: Toronto 4-6-0. Detroit 3-5-2.

  • The Wings are currently 2-5-3 on Saturdays.

  • Gustavsson has never faced the Leafs. This will be his first game against his former employer. In his career at the Air Canada Centre, Gustavsson has a 18-20-9 record with a 2.80 GAA, .906 SV% and 5 shutouts.

Prediction: Sea of Blue

Let's Go Red Wings.
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