The Toronto Maple Leafs will have some new faces in the lineup Saturday against the Detroit Red Wings and will also have the services of their captain Dion Phaneuf, whose status was up in the air after being hit in the face with a puck Thursday against Winnipeg.
“Nothing got broke, he didn’t lose any teeth, most hockey players I know would be back and Dion is no different. We need Dion in the lineup, not just for leadership, he is easily our best defenseman.” said Toronto coach Ron Wilson after the morning skate. “When you are playing a team like Detroit, you want to make sure you have as many hands on deck as possible.”
Forward Mike Brown will return to the lineup for the first time since November 15th, while oft-injured Mike Komisarek is back on defense after missing 21 games with a broken arm. He is expected to be partnered with Cody Franson.
“Unfortunately I have been in this position a few times where I have been hurt and had to battle back,” said Komisarek, who has played 127 games as Leaf in three seasons since signing as a free agent in the summer of 2009. “The good thing about this time was I had the opportunity to skate early on when I was recovering from the injury. Your first game back you always play really simple.”
While healthy bodies return for the Leafs, Detroit will remain without two key cogs in Tomas Holmstrom and Darren Helm because of groin injuries. In their place are forwards, Gustav Nyquist, who recorded his first NHL point in the Wings’ last game Tuesday at Dallas and Chris Connor, who has three points in six games this season. He last played on Dec. 13.
The Wings boast the second most home wins in the NHL but are below .500 on the road.
“Why is that?” asked Detroit coach Mike Babcock rhetorically. “If I had the answer we’d fix it. The bottom line is we think our game is getting better and continues to grow and so it has to continue to grow and tonight is a big part of that.”
Jimmy Howard, whose 24 wins leads the NHL, will aim for his 100th career victory tonight and relishes the opportunity to do so in front of a sell-out crowd in Toronto and with the large audience that comes with a nationally televised Saturday night game.