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Finishing A Home-And-Home With The Wings

by Mike Ulmer / Toronto Maple Leafs
Same old Detroit Red Wings.

The Wings, like the Pittsburgh Penguins, are contending to be only team since the mid 1980s to appear in three consecutive Stanley Cup Finals.

The Wings visit  the Maple Leafs tonight after Toronto earned a 5-4 victory at Joe Louis Arena on Friday via the shootout.

The Wings, who open their season playing two games in Sweden, are expected to ice another lineup filled with unfamiliar faces such as former Leaf prospects Jeremy Williams and Kris Newbury as well as goalie Jimmy Howard, who apprenticed for four seasons in the Wings’ Official finishing school in Grand Rapids, Mich.

The Wings, who lost by a single goal in seven games to the Pens, look as strong as they did in years past. Yes, Marian Hossa took his 40 goals to Chicago and ageless Chris Chelios has moved on. Mikael Samuelson has bolted to Vancouver but these are more or less the departures you expect from a championship level team.

There is some question where they can land goaltending. Chris Osgood turns 37 in a few months and his statistics were alarming last season. In just one year  his goals against swelled to 3.09 from 2.09. Osgood’s save percentage shrunk as well, dipping to .887 from .914 a season earlier. The Wings led the league in goalscoring thanks to the antics of players such as Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen and Pavel Datsyuk and were able to paper over Osgood’s play.
The Wings are also giving Dan Cloutier, an NHL veteran who sat out last season because of injuries, a look.

The Leafs, by comparison face a bucketful of decisions. They must deduce if Jonas Gustavsson, having missed most of training camp because of a surgical procedure, can get enough work in to justify keeping him on the regular season roster. Gustavsson stopped all seven first-period shots he faced on Friday, but former Isles goalie Joey MacDonald has enjoyed a strong camp and could influence the decision.

Gustavsson and incumbent Vesa Toskala are expected to split the netminding duties again on Saturday, but the schedule is frantic. On Sunday, the Leafs play the Buffalo Sabres in their third game in as many nights.

While there seems little question that talented rookie Nazem Kadri will be returned to his junior club in London, Leafs’ coach Ron Wilson must decide who to keep in a crowd that includes Jiri Tlusty, Lee Stempniak, Jamal Mayers as well as college-trained Tyler Bozak, Viktor Stalberg and Christian Hanson.
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