Morning Skate: Red Wings at Maple Leafs Preview

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Spo

Game 74

7:00p ET, Air Canada Centre

Toronto, ON

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

Radio: 97.1 The Ticket

Leafs Blog: Pension Plan Puppets

This is the biggest game of the season thus far.

I don't think there is much more to say, but I'll try to spell it out for you if needed. There are two Wild Card spots available for the playoffs and there are four teams currently tied with 80 points that are vying for those final two spots. Two of those four teams are the Red Wings and Maple Leafs. The Wings currently sit second in the race thanks to their lack there of regulation/overtime wins. The Leafs are fourth because they've played two more games than the Wings, Capitals and Blue Jackets.

After the high of taking seven out of eight points last week, the Wings have dropped two straight in regulation. It doesn't matter if they were controversial or not. No one cares at the end of the day. It's not how you got there, just that you made it into the playoffs. This game is going to be tough. The pressure is going to be enormous on both sides. If you think it's going to be easy because the Leafs are on a slide…. think again. Toronto could lose a billion games-in-a-row and I would still believe that this game will be incredibly difficult. If there's anything we know about this Red Wings team it's that they don't make things easy on themselves. Tonight will be no different.

Enjoy the emotional ride. It's going to suck and be awesome. Don't forget your heart meds.

The Expected Lineup

Forwards

Johan Franzen Darren Helm Gustav Nyquist
Tomas Tatar Riley Sheahan Tomas Jurco
Joakim Andersson David Legwand Daniel Alfredsson
Drew Miller Luke Glendening Todd Bertuzzi

Defensemen

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

Goaltenders

Jimmy Howard (starting)
Jonas Gustavsson


Scratches:

Injuries: Jonathan Ericsson (finger), Justin Abdelkader (cut leg), Daniel Cleary (knee), Pavel Datsyuk (zest), Stephen Weiss (groin), Henrik Zetterberg (back) & Mikael Samuelsson (who cares)

MAPLE LEAFS THE MATCH-UP RED WINGS
36-31-8 (80 pts; 4th in WC Race) Record 33-26-14 (80 pts; 2nd in WC Race)
2.79 (12th in NHL) Goals Per Game 2.60 (19th in NHL)
3.08 (26th) Goals Against Per Game 2.75 (16th)
20.6% (4th) Power Play % 17.8% (17th)
78.1% (28th) Penalty Kill % 83.52% (12th)
Phil Kessel (36 goals) Goal Leader Gustav Nyquist (25 goals)
Phil Kessel (77 points) Points Leader Henrik Zetterberg (48 points)

Opponent Outlook

Player to Fear: Phil Kessel.

X-Factor: Toronto's goaltender.

Familiar Faces: None

Thumbs up (One Thing to Like About Toronto): Original Six.

Thumbs down (One Thing to Dislike About Toronto): Winter Classic result.

Bullets of Knowledge

  • The Red Wings are 277-273-93-4 (W-L-T-OTL) all-time against the Maple Leafs.

  • Last 10 games: Toronto 2-8-0. Detroit 4-5-1.

  • Howard is 1-1-1 with a 2.61 GAA, .894 SV% in 4 career apperances against Toronto.

Prediction: Heart attack.

Let's Go Red Wings.

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