Leafs hope to extend Wings' road struggles
Friday, 01.06.2012 / 3:02 PM
RED WINGS (25-13-1) at MAPLE LEAFS (20-15-5)
TV: CBC, NHLN-US (HD), FS-Detroit (HD)
LAST 10: Detroit 6-4-0; Toronto 4-4-2
Season Series: Saturday's Hockey Night in Canada showdown at Air Canada Centre is the first and only meeting between these Original Six rivals this season. Detroit won last season's lone game 4-2 at Joe Louis Arena in what was the 643rd meeting in the organizations' storied histories.
Big Story: Both teams are coming into this game feeling good after victories, with the Red Wings downing the Stars 5-4 in Dallas on Tuesday and the Leafs pasting the Winnipeg Jets 4-0 at home on Thursday night. The Wings are hampered by groin injuries to fourth-line veteran Tomas Holmstrom and speedy energy-line center Darren Helm, both of whom will miss the game. The Leafs, meanwhile, have five on injured reserve and got Matthew Lombardi back on New Year's Eve in Winnipeg after an 18-game absence with an upper-body injury. Toronto has gotten points out of six of its last eight games and has only lost in regulation twice in its last 10 games at Air Canada Centre.
Red Wings: The Wings' home-road split can't be emphasized enough. Not only is their record slightly-below par on the road, despite the win at Dallas on Tuesday, but they've also allowed one more goal (56) than they've scored (55) in 21 games away from home. Meanwhile, they've got a whopping plus-41 goal margin at Joe Louis Arena - where they've scored 73 goals and allowed just 32 in 18 games. Continuing to improve that first stat, away from home, is an ongoing theme. Goalie Jimmy Howard will also be aiming for his 100th career win against the Leafs - which will be CBC's nationally-televised Hockey Night in Canada broadcast.
"It's Hockey Night in Canada; it's Monday Night Football for Canada," Howard told Mlive.com's Ansar Khan. "Everyone is tuned into it. If the crowd is anything like it is (in Detroit) when we meet, it should be
Maple Leafs: Toronto's 4-0 win at home Thursday night against the Winnipeg Jets couldn't have gone much better in terms of the stat sheet. They got goals from Phil Kessel, Tim Connolly, Mikhail
Grabovski and Clarke MacArthur and at the other end of the rink got Jonas Gustavsson's second career shutout - his first since December 2009. The only bad news was star defenseman Dion Phaneuf getting hit in the face late in the third with a slap shot, but Leafs coach Ron Wilson said Friday that Phaneuf will play against Detroit.
Gustavsson has won eight of his last 11 games and enjoyed putting that zero on Thursday.
"Of course it's good," Gustavsson said. "But it's not like I feel I'm going to have a shutout next game just because of this. You need the team to help you out, you need to be lucky a couple times with the
bounces and so on. But I guess it's a good sign that you did something right."
The Red Wings' second line of Valtteri Filppula
(1 goal, 3 assists), Henrik Zetterberg
(4 assists) and Jiri Hudler
(3 goals) has accounted for a jaw-dropping 11 points in the last two games, which
have both been victories. … Toronto's Joffrey Lupul
has recorded points in eight of the last 10 games and has five goals and six assists in that span.
: Detroit activated Jan Mursak
(broken ankle) from IR and sent him on a conditioning stint in the American Hockey League, while Patrick Eaves
(broken jaw) has missed 16 games and is on IR. Holmstrom (three games, groin) and Helm (two games, groin) will also miss the Leafs game and possibly Sunday's game in Chicago. … Toronto's Colby Armstrong
(concussion), Tyler Bozak
(upper body) and John-Michael Liles
(undisclosed) are all on injured reserve, while fourth-line forward Mike Brown
(back), and defenseman Mike Komisarek
(upper body) are expected to return against the Wings.
Toronto comes into this game with a 275-275-93-0 all-time record against the Red Wings. … Howard leads the League with 23 wins and is on pace to win 49 games, which would break the team's single-season record of 44 set by Hall of Famer Terry Sawchuk twice in the 1950s. It would also top the NHL mark of 48 set by Martin Brodeur in the 2006-07 season.
If Howard starts on against the Leafs and again Sunday in Chicago, it will be the seventh set of back-to-back games he's started this season - which shows just how much Red Wings coach Mike Babcock depends on his main man in net.
"He's gradually gotten better and better," Babcock told Mlive.com. "He's an upper-echelon goaltender in this League. Now, he has to do it year after year after year for about 15 (seasons) and then you can say he's good."