Morning Skate: Maple Leafs at Red Wings Preview

From piano-mover to snow-shoveler. Your move, Datsyuk. - Gregory Shamus

Game 42

1:00p ET, Michigan Stadium aka The Big House

Ann Arbor, MI

TV: CBC, NBC, RDS

Radio: AM 1270

Maple Leafs Blog: Pension Plan Puppets

If there's one stale cliché players constantly give in postgame interviews, it's "we have to get better." Despite Dion Phaneuf getting his own tongue twisted on 24/7 when talking about the Maple Leafs' loss to the Red Wings 11 days ago, his answer boiled down to a form of "we have to get better."

I'm not one to make New Year's resolutions, but if there's a time for the Red Wings to start getting better, the turn of the calendar which happens today, right now, is a fabulous time to start developing some consistency (and I'm not talking about Kyle Quincey's consistently earning our scorn or Mikael Samuelsson's consistent healthy scratches). Start getting healthy and staying healthy. Start stepping up their individual and collective games. Start getting all parts of their game clicking. Start holding onto leads built late into games. START WINNING ON HOME ICE. The offense scored 8 goals in 2 games since Christmas break, but defense and goaltending have given up 9. Jimmy Howard returned from injury Monday against the Predators, but we need 2012-13 Howard, not the imposter who hogtied and stashed away the real "Jimmah" for most of the early parts of this season.

Game 42. The second half of the season officially starts now. The time to bury your division opponents and keep them down begins now. If the Red Wings don't want to wait until the last week of the season again, the push for the playoffs begins now.

We're taking it outside today. Enjoy the moment. Don't get lost in it.

The Expected Lineup

Forwards

Henrik Zetterberg
Pavel Datsyuk
Todd Bertuzzi
Justin Abdelkader
Darren Helm
Gustav Nyquist
Drew Miller
Joakim Andersson
Tomas Tatar
Daniel Cleary
Luke Glendening
Patrick Eaves

Defensemen

Niklas Kronwall
Brendan Smith
Kyle Quincey
Danny DeKeyser
Brian Lashoff
Jakub Kindl

Goaltenders

Jimmy Howard (starting)
Petr Mrazek

Scratches: Mikael Samuelsson

Injuries: Daniel Alfredsson (back spasms)*, Jonathan Ericsson (shoulder/ribs), Johan Franzen (concussion), Jonas Gustavsson (groin), Stephen Weiss (groin)

*Alfredsson is a game-time decision. Eaves will be scratched in favour favor of Alfredsson if Alfredsson can play.

RED WINGS THE MATCH-UP MAPLE LEAFS
18-14-9 (45 pts; 4th in Atlantic) Record 20-16-5 (45 pts; 5th in Atlantic)
2.58 (17th in NHL) Goals Per Game 2.66 (15th in NHL)
2.71 (15th) Goals Against Per Game 2.78 (17th)
19.3% (11th) Power Play % 22.3% (5th)
84.4% (8th) Penalty Kill % 77.5% (27th)
Pavel Datsyuk (15 goals) Goal Leader Phil Kessel (20 goals)
Henrik Zetterberg (33 points) Points Leader Phil Kessel (37 points)

Opponent Outlook

Player to Fear: Phil Kessel. I see no reason to put anyone else's name other than the opponent's leading goal-scorer and point-getter.

X-Factor: Jonathan Bernier is scheduled to play all 60 minutes today instead of just 40. So we probably won't be spotted three goals in the opening frame.

Familiar Faces (special Ann Arbor edition): Phil Kessel played for the United States National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor from 2003-05. James van Riemsdyk did the same from '05-'07.

Thumbs up (One Thing to Like About Toronto): Graham is from there.

Thumbs down (One Thing to Dislike About Toronto): They care way too much about water bottles.

Bullets of Knowledge

  • The Red Wings are 276-273-93-3 (W-L-T-OTL) all-time against the Toronto.

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

  • The Wings are currently 3-2-0 on Wednesdays. BONUS: They're also 1-0 in Winter Classics.

  • In 2 career appearances, Howard has an 0-1-0 record against the Maple Leafs, sporting a small-sample-size-induced .829 SV% and tidy 3.43 GAA.

Prediction: Bertuzzi and David Clarkson take their water bottles outside.

Let's Go Red Wings!!!
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